We want to create a collection that is exclusive for the quality of the material and technique. Order arises from a methodological treatment of disorder. By creating a symbolic language in the patterns, our ordered disorder comes to symbolize both power and danger.

Job Smeets of Studio Job

Modern Memento Mori

Studio Job's Industry Series

Dutch design duo Job Smeets and Nynke Tynagel, who together make up Studio Job, are known for their maximalist approach to postmodernism. While much of the design world still orients itself around a modernism with origins in the Bauhaus and other early 20th century design movements, Studio Job is rapacious in their use of both contemporary and historical motifs, techniques, and materials to create works that reflect the turbulent era we live in.

The present lot, from Studio Job's 2009 Industry Series features laser-cut and hand-constructed marquetry of Indian rosewood and maple. The intricate and symmetrical façade resembles seventeenth century Dutch decorative designs, while the morbid subject matter alludes to vanitas still-life paintings and the proliferation of memento mori imagery during the Dutch Golden Age. In Studio Job's modern re-imagination of these historical motifs, animal skeletons, butterflies, mice and lizards mingle with fearsome icons that have become commonplace in contemporary life—gas masks, electrical towers, automatic weapons and pluming smoke stacks.

Woven Napkin, Northern Netherlands, c. 1665. Image: Art Institute of Chicago
Pieter Claesz, Natura morta con vanitas, 1625

In the seventeenth century, the Dutch came to be the richest, most powerful and most technologically advanced peoples in the world. While much art of the Dutch Golden Age celebrated this abundance with opulent still-lifes and dignified portraits of civic life, vanitas paintings were reminders that no other thing was certain other than death and that earthly possessions, inherently transient, were often pursued out of vanity. These paintings existed as both a moral flogging as well as a genuine appeal to viewers to meditate upon and appreciate the richness of the world at hand, even in its chaos. The same could be said about Studio Job's Industry Series, which urges those living with these works to fear not the threats of the modern world, but to fear not living fully and freely alongside them.

Design used to only be about bringing the good news and finding solutions, but we think you can only show beauty if you also show the ugliness. That’s life.

Job Smeets