By Vy Tran
Every year since 2012, COS chooses a special artist, designer or architect to create an installation for Salone del Mobile in Milan. This year they tapped Phillip K. Smith III, a Palm Springs-based artist who’s known for his light-based installations that challenge the viewer’s perception of their surroundings. The use of mirrors is one of Smith’s three artistic styles and the material of choice he’s chosen for this year’s installation, ‘Open Sky,’ a reflective mirror installation that uses the sky and Italian architecture that surrounds it as part of the installation itself.
Situated inside a courtyard of the 16th century Palazzo Isimbardi, ‘Open Sky’ seems to unfold itself the closer you walk towards it to reveal the reflections of the ever-present sky and the Renaissance architecture that surrounds it. The mirrored installation changes its blank canvas over time as the day goes from morning to night, changing the colors of the installation itself. The sky is pulled to the ground and what used to seem like a confined space now opens up new dimensions and perspectives for the viewer.
In the palazzo’s adjoining garden, Smith set up an additional five mirrored installation, this time to highlight nature instead of architecture.
For COS’s Creative Director Karin Gustafsson, Smith’s unique perspectives of the world is just one of the reasons that attracted COS to the artist. In March, we caught up with Gustafsson to learn more about this year’s collaboration.
To be able to collaborate with a brand like COS at a platform like Salone del Mobile Milano is an incredible opportunity. For you, what do you consider most important when selecting the artist or designer?
At COS we are constantly inspired by the worlds of art and design, and the team and I are always researching and discovering new artists. Salone is an opportunity to partner with an artist or designer whose work we have admired, and give them a platform to create something new and exciting. What’s most important with all of our partnerships is that there is a natural connection between COS and the artist: we always partner with those that inspire us. We are so proud to have been able to work with artists and designers like Studio Swine, Snarkitecture and Suji Fojimoto and Nendo to create installations at Salone del Mobile in previous years. With Phillip, we were very taken with his piece Lucid Stead (2013) and continued to follow his work from then onwards, including Desert X in Spring 2017, and his piece ‘The Circle of Land and Sky’ at Design Miami/Art Basel in December 2017. I was drawn to the way that Phillip’s work plays with light, time and space, inviting you to interact with your environment in a new way. His work is both experiential and visually striking, and challenges you to reconsider your perspective. I am excited to see his work in Milan, in a new environment at the Palazzo Isimbardi at Salone del Mobile: it is unlike any space he has ever displayed his work in before.
How does Phillip’s work align with the COS aesthetic and ethos?
At COS our aesthetic has always been understated, and we often play with material innovation and proportion to create unexpected elements in our designs. We also develop interesting colour palettes each season, with tones and hues inspired by our research in the worlds of art and design but also the environment. For example for SS18, we created an array of summer brown shades, as well as pieces in mint and leaf green. Phillip’s work has an incredible purity to it, whilst playing with form, light and colour, so his approach feels very aligned to ours here at COS. And like our designs, Phillip’s creations feel modern yet timeless.
Fashion and art are often intrinsically connected to one another. Would you say the same of fashion and architecture, and if so, how does Open Sky connect back to COS?
Every season we draw inspiration for our collections from the worlds of art and architecture/design, and so we like to support and give back to the artistic community whenever we can. Artists like Phillip create pieces that influence the COS sensibility, and it is important for us to recognize and celebrate this. I think that architecture and fashion are as intrinsically connected as art and fashion, as well as to each other. When we are creating our collections we look to both these fields, and our pieces are often described as architectural. ‘Open Sky’ is a piece that speaks to the COS sensibility, and also reinforces our support of important artists and architects, such as Phillip K Smith III.
We also believe in working on projects that are democratic, and one reason that we enjoy coming to Salone del Mobile every year (2018 will mark our 7th year), is the chance to share our interests and inspirations with others, inviting members of the public to visit the COS installation. It is our hope that by continuing to support the arts and creative projects, we can create a meaningful dialogue with our customers and celebrate the relationship between all areas of the creative disciplines. We are so excited to be bringing Phillip’s work to Europe for the first time, and can’t wait to see people experiencing and enjoying his art work.
At the most basic level, Smith designs installations that present light in the simplest state, but it’s much more than that. He’s able to capture light, air and space through a tangible, 3D form that unites us, the viewers, all together. The sky is is something we all can see, no matter where we are in the world, and with ‘Open Sky,’ Smith hopes that you’ll be able to see it with new eyes that next time you look up.
Photos by Lance Gerber.