Catalan designer Guillermo Santomà’s pieces had just landed in the Cerralbo Museum. It was his first solo exhibition in Madrid, and it was a sensation: his radical works were a blend of found objects and artefacts in a state of disintegration, looking like an alien palace set against the baroque interiors of the museum. Nacho Alegre – photographer, editor and close friend of Santomà – visited the studio of this unclassifiable creator just before the invasion.
At this point, only a fire in the nave of Guillermo Santomà could force him to order. The spotless space I first witnessed three or four years ago is no longer. This morning I received an invitation to his exhibition, curated by Chus Martínez – a very important step in his career. It opens next Tuesday, so I had assumed that the exhibition would already be mounted, and I would find Guillermo relaxed after placing his final touches, with time to chat. But no.
Despite the material nature of his work, it is evident that Guillermo is only concerned about the end image. Once his work is finished, the works no longer interest him. He breaks them, mutilates them, burns them, grafitis them or they sit in storage, piled up. A photograph of the finished work is the only thing that remains. For this exhibition, Rafa Castells will photograph his works and will form part of a catalogue, with edited text by Martínez and writer Enrique Vila-Matas (published by Caniche Editorial).
Part of the crew is designer Max Enrich, enduring the cold while lending a hand to Guillermo to build a foldable traveller with the remains of a mountain bike. The pair have just sawed in half a polystyrene piano and have embedded a sound system –
one of the most intriguing works of the exhibition – and are finishing production on some additional pieces: a curtain made from a collage of carpets, various types of foam sofas, a resin minibar and a fish tank lamp. It feels like a joke to combine his work with the collection and neo-antiquities of the Marquis of Cerralbo, but there are actually strange similarities. Despite this, and as always with his works, Guillermo’s pieces will be a slap against any other object that they face.
I take Guillermo and Max to lunch. We end up discussing Marc Newson – a designer they both adore, but I detest – and a perplexing exhibition he presented at the Gagosian Gallery in New York City. Perplexing, because Newson presented furniture as his art. Regular furniture. For my taste possibly even outdated furniture. It was at this point I recall a road trip I took with Guillermo just before summer, where he wanted to close the design chapter in his life. Perhaps instead channelling his focus to architecture or stop designing for a while and start writing. I don’t think this exhibition was created with this intention, but I think it reveals that Guillermo’s relationship with design is circumstantial. I have a feeling that this is the last exhibition in which Guillermo Santomà will present as a designer. Lucky he took those photographs.
THIS ARTICLE APPEARED ORIGINALLY IN THE APRIL 2019 EDITION OF ICON MAGAZINE.