There is a long-standing tradition of artists blurring the boundary between art and design. With institutions such as MOMA featuring an entire department devoted to architecture and design, it is considered an important part of art history and culture.
I recently heard New York Times art critic Roberta Smith lecture and she mentioned that it’s a shame our society doesn’t place more emphasis on visual literacy education. If we did she believes that everything in our world, from buildings to city layouts, to objects, would be more aesthetically pleasing. Here are some instances of artists who emphasized the concept or appearance of an object rather than simply its function, bridging the gap between art and design:
Donald Judd, one of the leaders of Minimalism, has an amazing legacy in design. Another well-known architect who creates highly designed furniture is Frank Gehry. Roy McMakin is a Seattle-based artist who usually incorporates an element of verbal pun. McMakin’s designs feature an overarching investigation of how perception influences meaning. Hannes Van Severen and Michael Beitz both create captivating, surreal furniture. Artists like David Shrigley and Adam McEwen work humor into their design-work. Even artist Yves Klein has a table, created under the direction of his widow, that features his famous blue. Damien Hirst designed a chair replete with his signature butterflies and Yoshitomo Nara designed “doggy radio,” a fully functional radio in the form of a dog.
It’s not uncommon for artists to create functional objects, but those objects do often stand out for their elevated level of design and conceptual consideration. If indeed everyone put as much thought into form as they did function the world would probably be a much better looking, or at least a more visually interesting, place.