Work / Nicer Tuesdays

How to materialise the different facets of an artist: InterestingProjects on re-imagining Keith Haring

October’s Nicer Tuesdays saw design practice InterestingProjects discuss how it conceptualised and designed Tate Liverpool’s major retrospective of beloved artist, Keith Haring. An interior design practice which designs exhibitions, displays and homes – this year InterestingProjects was granted the golden opportunity to design the first every major exhibition of the artist’s work in the UK.

Consisting of Joana Filipe and James Mason, the pair met in their shared studio back in 2015, soon realising the similarities in their work. Working separately, they would employ each other for help on projects from time to time. But it wasn’t until February this year that the duo decided to form a collaborative business.

As they explained at Nicer Tuesdays, both bring different elements to their collaborative practice: James’ background is in interior design, while Joana’s background is in fine art sculpture. Although their skills complement each other, this isn’t always the case: “every time we get a brief, we have this massive argument,” laughed Joana. “James would start with doing a floor plan” whereas “I need to sketch, I need to decide what material, what meanings and what it is we’re actually responding to,” she told the audience. In order to find a happy middle, the duo decided to start working on-site, realising that immersing themselves in the space meant they could find “common ground”.

Upon preparing their second-ever pitch, this time for the Tate Liverpool, the duo flooded themselves with research into the culture of New York, “we cranked up the speaker with 1980s Hip-hop music”. The original brief was basically to envision “how Keith Haring comes from a subculture and becomes pop culture”: a task that would require conceptual thinking and planning.

They split Keith Haring, his work and personality, into his different energies: pop artist, political activist, and social responsibility. By utilising colours to coordinate his work, the final result used materials to reflect the changing architecture of Keith Haring’s New York, and his work too.

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