Chatsworth Holds a Mirror up to the Future of Design

Chatsworth Holds a Mirror up to the Future of Design

U nder the stewardship of the Devonshire family, Chatsworth has long been a meeting point of history, classic design and contemporary artwork. As a centre for creativity and finding unexpected relationships between architecture, sculpture, furniture, ceramics and paintings, it is unparalleled in the UK and continues to innovate with its latest exhibition, Mirror Mirror: Reflections on Design at Chatsworth. Over five hundred years, the house and garden have been transformed many times, by many generations of the Devonshire family.

Fernando Laposse's cabinet in the State Bedchamber at Chatsworth © Chatsworth House Trust.

This latest transformation, on display from 18 March until 1 October and co-curated by Alex Hodby, Senior Curator of Programme at Chatsworth, and writer, historian and curator Glenn Adamson, features the work of 16 world-renowned contemporary artists and designers reflecting on and responding to the unique and iconic spaces of Chatsworth, both inside and out.

"these functional, intriguing objects are deeply connected to the house, garden and the collections here at Chatsworth – a place where design has been a key feature for 500 years"

Not only this, but they also speak to the key issues of our time: climate, sustainability, equality and how we connect to each other. From Andile Dyalvane’s ceramics inspired by fire, water and earth to custom silverware by Ndidi Ekubia to Ettore Sottsass’s inventive approach to traditional glassblowing, these works enter into a dialogue with the many thousands of objects that have resided in these rooms over more than half century.

Michael Anastassiades's light installation in the library at Chatsworth © Chatsworth House Trust.

Long-time Chatsworth collaborator Joseph Walsh sees his extraordinary Enignum VIII Bed relocated to the Sabine Room and adds more of his signature, sweeping and sinuous wooden sculpture to the South Sketch Galleries in the form of gravity-defying wall brackets. In the Vestibule hangs a monumental chandelier by Ini Archibong accompanied by a custom-composed sound piece, while London-based designer Michael Anastassiades has illuminated the Library with an installation made from bamboo hand-finished using traditional Japanese methods.

Faye Toogood’s elemental, limestone furniture is displayed in the Chapel, complete with an appropriate bronze pew from which to contemplate it. Setting and concept come together in new and provocative ways, such as with Formafantasma’s Charcoal series – a work that explores the tension between charcoal’s connections to pollution and destruction and its positive potential in contexts like water filtration.

Max Lamb's cedar chairs in the State Drawing Room at Chatsworth © Chatsworth House Trust.

Here, it is displayed in a building that long relied on charcoal as a vital fuel source. Meanwhile, Max Lamb’s cedar chairs were inspired by the existing wood carving in the State Drawing Room where they now reside and in the Sculpture Gallery, Samuel Ross presents hybrid works in marble and steel in response to the reclining 18th century sculptures of Filippo Albacini and Antonio Canova.

As Hodby says: “We’re fascinated with how the contemporary works in our exhibition have used materials in innovative ways to make functional and intriguing objects that are also deeply connected to the house, garden and the collections here at Chatsworth – a place where design has been a key feature for 500 years. ”Many of the works utilise familiar materials in unexpected ways such as the unique furniture by Mexican designer Fernando Laposse, created using agave fibres or Jay Sae Jung Oh’s technique of wrapping found objects in leather cord: in this case, a throne built using broken musical instruments.

Installation view of Samuel Ross's in Mirror Mirror Reflections on Design at Chatsworth © Chatsworth House Trust

When it comes to the Symbio Benches by Joris Laarman, materials have actually been sourced from the Chatsworth estate, with stone quarried there used to create two new works designed to encourage the growth of moss and lichen to embed them into the landscape, where the exhibition continues outdoors. 

In the glorious grounds of Chatsworth, a trio of bronze seats by Wendell Castle gather at the edge of the historic Ring Pond while the formal Rose Garden becomes home to Seduction, Pair 06, a hand-carved seating sculpture in Iranian red travertine by Najla El Zein.

Najla El Zein's Seduction, Pair 06 in the Rose Garden at Chatsworth.

In the Grotto, Chris Schanck has installed works made using upcycled scrap materials that resemble crystalline structures that link back to Chatsworth’s own geological collections. Together these works, exhibited in partnership with Friedman Benda gallery, and with the support of Salon 94 Design and Adrian Sassoon galleries, unite to illustrate how centuries of design and craftsmanship can imbue a location with undeniable and ever-evolving artistry.

Banner image: polychromatic glass installation by Ettore Sottsass in the Great Chamber at Chatsworth House.

Sotheby’s is a proud sponsor of Chatsworth.

Chatsworth House Design Week

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