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November 16, 2019

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Giving birth to vintage collectable design

UNIQUE Design Shanghai may not have been showcasing the most glamorous set at November art week in the West Bund area, but its opening sent out a powerful statement to Chinese art buyers in the city.

China’s first platform dedicated to contemporary and vintage collectible design witnessed eight top international design galleries and local talent showcase their works.

Morgan Morris, co-founder and co-director of Unique Design Shanghai, said, “Unique Design Shanghai is like a newborn baby.”

Morris began her career at Sotheby’s in London in the late 80s. She then worked with Leo Castelli to open his Paris office in the early 1990s, where she continued her professional life within the contemporary art sector.

Her involvement in the Chinese cultural scene began over 20 years ago when she worked in cultural event production between China and Europe for companies such as Bologna Fiere Group, which founded ShContemporary, the first overseas art fair in Shanghai in 2007.

She was also employed as a consultant for Art Beijing and Photo Beijing, and worked for Walter Veltroni, Rome’s mayor between 2006 and 2009, in cultural exchange in the fields of contemporary art, music, fashion and film between Italy and China.

Q: What initiated the project Unique Design Shanghai?

A: Throughout the world, the market of collectible design is showing unprecedented activity and great potential. The performance of Asia Pacific and China also reveals huge momentum.

Unique Design Shanghai, a Shanghai-based international exhibition of collectible design, has seized an opportunity.

Q: Can you define “collectible design?”

A: Collectible design is composed of many different aspects. It should be a combination of diverse factors, including exceptional concept, outstanding craftmanship, contribution to the history of design and, for sure, created in limited edition.

Collectible design pushes boundaries for crossovers. Taking some of the participating galleries as an example. L’Eclaireur, as the inventor of a concept store, present limited editions with strong fashion elements.

Architectural vintage design is also linked to collectible design such as the Magen H Gallery, who presents a selection of pieces by prominent French craftsman Pierre Chapo, while the Paris-based Korean gallery IHAM represents iconic French designers of the early 20th century.

Q: What’s the importance of adding a special pavilion, China Design Next, to the project?

A: As we witness the blurring of boundaries between art, design, and architecture, a very talented group of Chinese designers have emerged and played a critical role in forging the territory between these practices to form a specific style of “Chinese design art.”

The pavilion Chinese Design Next, at Unique Design Shanghai, is an exhibition which demonstrates a fascinating evolution as it spans the work of four generations of designers.

This talented group of contemporary Chinese designers has courageously supported and embodied “created in China” rather than the “made in China” over the past two decades and brought China’s notion of design into the 21st century, while honoring its 5,000 years of majestic cultural heritage.

Q: How did you attract some of Europe’s top design galleries to participate the Unique Design Shanghai at this infant stage?

A: First of all, these galleries are all of exceptional caliber and diversity with bases in several important European and American cities. But what is more important is the purpose and vision of Unique Design Shanghai which generates courage and confidence among these galleries for the project.

Q: Why did you call Unique Design Shanghai a kind of art salon rather than a fair or an exposition?

A: The French word “salon” is more about conversations, interactions, exchanges, discussions and collaborations. Rather than an art fair, we are here dialoguing with an architectural venue, with the dynamic district in art and culture, with the nature outside — so a unique experience of sharing.

Q: What’s the advantages of your role as one of the Unique Design Shanghai founders?

A: Being able to witness firsthand the evolution of the collectible design creative scene and market in China.

Being able to introduce some of the extraordinary Chinese limited-edition designers to friends and professionals from the sector internationally.

Q: What’s the biggest challenge for you and your team during the preparation period?

A: Time! The preparation schedule of the project was indeed very tight.

Obtaining the highest level of quality in the production of our event in order to match the standards of the participating galleries and designers.

Q: Collectible design seems to be a new trend as an art investment, different from those pure artworks. How do you see the attraction of collectible design for Chinese buyers?

A: Artworks of limited edition from Chinese designers could be a very interesting category of collectible design for local buyers. This category has huge potential and Chinese designers need support.

If Chinese collectors would like to do historical investment, it’s better that they do enough research in advance and make sure they purchase from reliable sources. The Unique Design Shanghai platform provides rich documentation and authentic certifications.

As to collect contemporary pieces, just follow your passion. Purchase what you enjoy. Use it and share with friends.

However, collectors should be careful if they purchase online.

Q: Do you still remember the first collectible design you bought?

A: It’s an historical Japanese tea carpet from a famous Japanese designer. I bought in the mid 1980s. I’m still using it today.

Q: Can you picture the Unique Design Shanghai project in five years time?

A: Staying small but at a very high quality. Unique Design Shanghai aims to establish the entire structured ecosystem linking together key points of the collectible design realm: architecture, art and design.

As a perfect platform for international collaborations in collectible design, the salon stimulates design dialogue and business, targeting design gallerists, artists, designers, architects, collectors and institutions.

At the same time, the salon also aims to discover and support Chinese designers and their limited-edition pieces on an international scale.


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