Michael Bennett, N.F.L. Player Turned Furniture Designer, Exhibits His Work in Chicago
Left: Michael Bennett with pieces from his inaugural show, “We Gotta Get Back to the Crib.” Right: Bennett’s Gumbo lounge chair and Gumbo stool photographed in Honolulu.Credit…Mark Kushimi
By Jinnie Lee
Michael Bennett, the former N.F.L. player, started designing furniture as a way to reconsider architecture and the spaces that Black people occupy. Inspired by his upbringing in Louisiana and Texas, as well as by trips to Senegal, where his ancestors are from, Bennett began to think about the objects that “bring Black people together in public spaces” as a way to deepen his longtime activism work focused on racial justice. After retiring from football in 2020, he founded the design practice Studio Kër. Bennett’s exploration of the Black home led him to create an 11-piece collection of sculptural furniture that he’s debuting this month in “We Gotta Get Back to the Crib,” his inaugural exhibition for the Los Angeles art gallery Marta, presented at Theaster Gates’s Rebuild Foundation in Chicago. (In the spring, the show will travel to Houston.) The collection reimagines objects of communal gatherings; pieces include the Gumbo lounge chair, a lush take on the stackable monobloc chair, and the Pew couch, a nod to the church bench, made of leather and ekki wood. “For me, the show is about celebrating Black ingenuity and connecting back to that African diasporic design language,” says Bennett. “We Gotta Get Back to the Crib” is on view from Jan. 12 through Feb. 10, marta.la.
A New Destination to See Art in an Old TriBeCa Building
By Kurt Soller
A few years ago, when the New York gallerist Jack Shainman toured the 20,000-square-foot Beaux-Arts space that he’ll open this week as the Hall, his new TriBeCa gallery, he told his staff to play it cool around the real estate agent — and then, once inside the long-neglected lower floors of the Clock Tower Building (46 Lafayette Street), quickly showed his hand: “It’s like buying a living sculpture: the columns, the marble, the stairs,” he said on a recent afternoon, gesturing at a row of large, arched windows. After acquiring it, he and his partner, the Spanish painter Carlos Vega, waited two years while developers renovated and restored the landmarked lobby and adjacent rooms, all built around 1898 by the firm McKim, Mead & White and once home to the New York Life Insurance Company. Now nearly complete, Shainman’s gallery is not only a new cultural center where people can see ambitious free exhibits; it also offers visitors a rare chance to marvel at some historic Manhattan architecture, with its complex, preserved bank vault and ornate, 29-foot-high coffered wood ceilings.
Compared to the white box that Shainman’s had in Chelsea since 1997, which will remain open, or the School, his quirkier upstate venue founded in 2013, this spot will be a much larger place that the artists he represents can transform to suit their needs, whether monumental or more intimate. It’ll officially open in September, when the artist Nick Cave will unveil, among other new works, a 16-foot-tall bronze sculpture. But as of Jan. 12, anyone can walk in and see “Broken Spectre,” the Irish artist Richard Mosse’s immersive 74-minute multi-spectral video installation about the destruction of the Amazon, filmed between 2019 and 2022. It’s the first time the piece — presented on 60 feet of new, vivid LED screens with an enveloping soundscape — is being shown in Manhattan, and the deep connections between the city’s capitalist bedrock (and this building’s, in particular) aren’t lost on the artist or his gallerist: “Here was a bank that traded on the lives of enslaved people,” Mosse says. “This was the wealth that Manhattan was built on, that America was built on, and there’s a direct connection to what’s happening in the Amazon. Rather than disavow it, or pretend it never happened, [Jack and Carlos and I] are trying to be honest about it: This is history, and it’s still ongoing.” “Broken Spectre” is on view from Jan. 12 through March 16, jackshainman.com.
A Wallpaper and Fabric Collection Inspired by Botany and Bows
By Caitie Kelly
After living in Paris and Manhattan during her nearly 30-year career as a fashion and design editor, Marian McEvoy moved into a cottage on the banks of the Hudson River in upstate New York. There, she creates botanical collages and illustrations that she sells through the interiors store KRB. When she was discussing a collaboration with the home décor company Schumacher in August 2022, she invited its creative director, Dara Caponigro, to visit. “Rather than just show them things that I thought might be nice translated into fabric, I said to Dara, ‘Go around and take anything off a wall or table. There’s all kinds of things: little sketches and notes in my workshop. Bring them back and we’ll look at them together,’” says McEvoy. Luckily, what Caponigro gathered delighted her, including a surprising bow design (“You can’t always count on people to like bows,” she says, though the timing of this launch coincides with a peak in interest) as well as prints of flowers, leaves and other botanicals. Those patterns now adorn the six wallcoverings and four fabrics that make up the high-contrast collection. McEvoy’s penchant for strong colors and lines is most visible in the rich red Thistle Vine, green Polka-Dot Jungle and crisp turquoise Bow-Wow-Wow prints. The designer has already integrated the collection into her cottage, with bedroom curtains in Pretty Petals (a print of daisy stems) and Bow-Wow-Wow as a wallcovering in her powder room. “I’ve liked it enough to say, ‘I’m going to live with this every day in my own house’,” she says. Marian McEvoy’s collection for Schumacher is available now to interior designers at schumacher.com, and to the general public at decoratorsbest.com beginning Feb. 1.
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