15 March–21 May, 2023

Decorative Art = Design? Design = Art?



Shanghai—A “new unity, between art and technology” emphasised in the Bauhaus Manifesto has directly nurtured and laid the foundation for the modernist design movement with functionalism as the cornerstone. Looking back at history, the new art movement and decorative design movement outside of this context are in opposition to the excessively cold style of industrialisation. Since the 1980s, the reflection on the international unified style of homogenisation has led to the rise of a series of contemporary design movements such as postmodernism.

Since 1993, Pearl Lam has held a series of exhibitions in Hong Kong dedicated to promoting design as an art form. The highly acclaimed touring exhibition Awakening: La France Mandarine—The French Influence on Chinese Art showed for the first time the importance of contemporary decorative art and its design concept in China. In keeping with the gallery’s “design is art” philosophy, Decorative Art = Design? Design = Art? raises questions about the hierarchical concept of art forms from the Western perspective and advocates following the Chinese literati tradition, where decorative art, design and fine art are on an equal footing. This show calls for the support of traditional handicrafts through a more diverse and open attitude while integrating the possibilities brought by new materials and technology. Rather than strictly adhering to “form follows function”, the concept and narrative of the work are key.

This exhibition aims to blur the differences and boundaries between craftsmen, designers, and artists. By skillfully arranging design and artworks, different kinds of works exist independently yet echo off of each other at the same time. This exhibition features decorative art pieces by André Dubreuil and XYZ Design; conceptual design works by A.A. MURAKAMI (aka Studio Swine), Xue Tao, and Danful Yang; and selected artworks by artists Philip Colbert, Ni Zhiqi, Zhang Tianju, and Zhao Yiqian.

A leading figure in contemporary decorative art and design, French decorative artist André Dubreuil’s works are infused with fantasy and classical style characteristics through his unique way of working with various materials. His Sleeves Vase has a simple cylindrical form, but the design is elevated with a gentle, elegant ribbon detail. It is full of rhythmic music, revealing an implicit and poetic natural dynamic beauty.

XYZ Design is a design team led by Pearl Lam, who firmly believes that art, as an inclusive rather than exclusive medium, should give artists the freedom to experiment with new ways of expression as well as new media and new technologies. Inspired by cubism in the history of Western modern art, Cube Coffee Table features interspersed and overlapping stainless-steel cubes as the table base and constructs a futuristic urban landscape image.

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