The Starck truth!

Not to be used with Citrus fruit!

Alessi Juicy Salif Lemon Squeezer: Not to be used with Citrus fruit!

Philippe Patrick Starck is a well-known French ‘Designer’ and probably the best known designer in the New Design style, even my mom has heard of him. His designs range from interiors to mass produced consumer goods such as toothbrushes, chairs, and even houses. He is celebrated wherever he goes and in whatever he does and frankly, it really winds me up. The story of The Emperors New Clothes has a particular resonance in me. The idea that a fool can be convinced of greatness in a person, place or thing, be utterly enthralled, despite their (ignored) senses telling them otherwise, just because someone in a perceived position of knowledge tells them so. Examples abound in modern life, especially with the power of mass media today, icons and celebrity have never been so worthless, and in the world of design none so worthless have received as much fame as Mr. Philippe Patrick Starck. He is the very absence of material and substance that many people have swallowed as a fabulous new gown. A void of meaningful creation wrapped in a pretty bow that defies the role of a designer. Obviously he was ensconced mirror in hand trapped by the greatness of his own reflection on the day the ‘Form follow’s function’ lecture rolled into town, Philippe has lived off wishy-washy substance, skillfully presented as high-end design. In fairness anyone as business minded as him deserves praise, and in a way he deserves more praise than most as he has taken a substandard product, himself, and promoted it to such very great heights, but that doesn’t excuse the insult of his success to accomplished designers world-wide. 

He promotes his work as ‘stylised’ design, taking every day objects and giving them the Starck treatment, basically mass produced unusable tat. The cheap and tacky watches he did for fossil, the Asahi Beer Hall in Tokyo with the “Asahi Flame” (1989), which is known locally as the “Golden Turd” and the pinnacle of my wrath the Juicy Salef Lemon squeezer for Alessi. The gold plated version of which came with a warning: “Use with Citric acid can be poisonous; Can also cause discoloration and erosion of gold plating”. Starck himself on being questioned about this is even rumored to have said, “My juicer is not meant to squeeze lemons; it is meant to start conversations”, how wild of him.

Its strange that I find it hard to find any critical article of him on the web yet no subject unifies the wonderfully polarised, wide ranging, and far reaching opinions of an Industrial Design class then critiquing Starck. In my mind, though I would love to hear your thoughts, he is disliked by those in the know such as designers, but he is lauded by the up-market consumers. Those that walk into large and fancy department stores where his goods are positioned in such a manner that he absolutely must be ‘the only choice Darling’. So as in the story, the consumer, like the Emperor is told by the swindler that the greatness of the product is “invisible to anyone who was either stupid or unfit for his position” 

In the story all it took was a small untainted child to cry out, “But he has nothing on!”…no such luck in real life I fear.

by Austin Maguire

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~ by Austin Maguire on August 11, 2008.

2 Responses to “The Starck truth!”

  1. Well spotted .. and the link in title … ‘Starck’ truth! He has obviously ‘squeesed’ Mr.Austin with his ‘designs’.

  2. The lady doth protest too much, methinks. For, Starck has most certainly caught the writer’s fancy – should it be otherwise, the better tact would be to ignore such silliness as is claimed of Starck. It may be that the writer does not “appreciate” or perhaps “understand’ Starck’s work, but he asserts so much as to lose credibility. His “digs” are too elaborate, too artful, too insistent. And, so I must conclude that compounding the lack of appreciation and understanding is a bit of naive jealousy at heart – for who want be jealous of one the cannot perceive and who also receives such adoration?

    Yet, I believe the simple truth is that Starck is not a designer in the traditional sense; he is a theater maker. Starck is celebrated because he creates “art” in an industry of engineers. Ask a serious connoisseur of 15th century art what they perceive of brilliant pop artists such as Rosenquist, Lichtenstein, Rauschenberg, Dine, or Ramos and they would offer up the writer’s critique above.

    Perhaps one may well accept that “celebrity” designers/architects are the “Pop Artists” of their field. Moreover, one may well ask, what will be remembered 100 years from now: their well-“engineered” and competent design or Starck’s offensive “art”?

    None of this is to say that the writer is not also quite good and competent in their field. It is to state the difference between art and engineering.

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