Why Not?

A ‘fun’ and ‘fantastic’ display at the Design Museum in Holon

Spanish artist Jaime Hayon has fun on his creation ‘Green Chicken.' (photo credit: Courtesy)
Spanish artist Jaime Hayon has fun on his creation ‘Green Chicken.'
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Marketing whizzes and copywriters frequently come up with weird and wonderful epithets for the products in their charge, the idea being to get the public scratching its collective dome, thereby bringing them onboard. But Jaime Hayon just lays it on us, plain, simple and enticingly compelling.
The 41-year-old Spanish artist’s current splash at the Design Museum Holon is called “Funtastico” and, yes, the collection of works is both “fun” and “fantastic.”
Consider, if you will, items such as The Green Chicken, which Hayon describes as “a kind of monument consisting of a fusion of two images.” The morphological mix comprises a giant chicken with a rocking-horse base with globular antenna and stylized frilly feathers. It looks like the work of a mischievous kid let loose in a studio, or playroom.
In fact, the outsized feathered creature was created in 2003 – Funtastico is a retrospective of Hayon’s creations made over the last decade or so – following a commission by a gallery owner in Shanghai. And there are plenty more exhibits to be marveled at, or smiled at, on the Holon institution’s two floors. As you enter the relevant museum wing you note steps leading down to the lower display area where you are met by a life-size chess set called The Tournament.
The work immediately conjures up images of the ferocious chess battle towards the end of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone but, then again, there does not appear to be anything even remotely violent about Hayon’s giant board and black-and-white pieces, as long as, for example, the 100 kg.-plus king doesn’t fall on you.
The Tournament was created in 2009, as an installation for Trafalgar Square in London. Hayon took his lead for the concept from the historical theme of the public space that celebrates the Royal Navy’s most important victory in the ongoing Napoleonic Wars at the beginning of the 19th century, against the navies of France and his own homeland.
“You know what Trafalgar Square commemorates,” he says.
“It is a big space to fill, in the square, and it was all about strategy, and movement [of ships] in a certain way, so I immediately knew that I had to make something that was symbolic for the square. The Spanish lost [the sea battle] so it was quite fun to be part of that,” he observes, tongue in cheek.
Even so, producing an outdoor installation fueled by violence doesn’t sound like his way, but the Spaniard typically took the military slant into more playful realms.
“I told them we should make something delicate, something people can play with. So I thought about a chess game, which represents England very well. There’s the monarchy – there’s a king and a queen – there are horses and bishops, and there’s an army, and there’s strategy which reflects the strategy of why the square was built, to commemorate a battle.”
Hayon’s line of thought led to an oxymoronic amalgam, of the feral and the fine.
“I wanted to integrate the other side [of military engagement], of delicacy, handmade work, craftsmanship, working with delicate ceramics and so on, in that size is what, in the end, makes a very strong work. And they got some people to actually play a game of chess.”
Like any artist, the Spaniard, whose Jewish roots in the Iberian Peninsula go back over 800 years, is constantly on the search for new frontiers and new conundrums with which to grapple and, hopefully, come out at the other end with a work of aesthetic and artistic and conceptual value.
Artists, by definition, have to work without a safety net, and Hayon certainly goes along with that ethos.
“At the beginning of my career it was all about exploring, and I never had a problem with that,” he says, with more than a touch of understatement. “I always had this attitude of let’s go for it, let’s see what happens. I never waste my time on all the crap there is around.”
The expendable elements to which he so colorfully refers take in the tools of trade of the average marketing director or PR executive.
“All that’s beyond me,” states the artist.
Indeed, Hayon’s seemingly insouciant take on his profession, and life in general, has paid handsome dividends and, if anything, has only served to cement his place in the global industrial design and arts spotlight.
“I made it the cover of Der Spiegel, I was in the FT [Financial Times], I was in the New York Times. I have been in everywhere in the last 10 years.”
He is almost at a loss to explain his meteoric rise to fame, although he appears to be too busy just having a good time and moving on to the next lucrative and fun project.
“There is no time to even say, hey I’m cool now and people know about me and what I’m doing. I don’t think about it. I might think, that’s cool, that’s great and then what’s the next thing to do.”
The ”next thing to do” is often the outcome of a flight of fancy that, somehow, makes it into intriguing – sometimes astonishing – corporeal form. Take, for example, Mon Cirque (“My Circus”), which is a collection of all manner of items that have some direct or oblique reference to the titular form of entertainment.
One of the central pieces is basically the upshot of the artist putting out a call to some of his pals, and assembling the deliveries in a creative and visually arresting manner. The Mon Cirque feature in question is a large and strangely shaped black table that goes off in every which direction. The items for the substratum were provided following Hayon’s call for motley shaped table supports.
“I told everyone to make a table. All my friends sent me a leg they had in the house. And, as it’s about a circus, you have some clowns and you have some rabbits, and all sort of fantasy things from the circus.”
His works frequently also comprise a combination of materials and textures.
“You have ceramics and I use glazing too,” he explains.
“I made the table with the help of a very good guy in Vienna, who makes pianos. It was the biggest thing he lacquered in his life.”
While Hayon, and his work, may give the impression of an artist just out to have a good time, throw caution to the wind and just go with the flow, the Spaniard points out that he and his assistants take great pride in producing the best end product they possibly can, both on a creative and a quality control level.
“The idea is to try to find the extreme of perfection, the extreme of quality of materials, and to work with the right people,” he says.
Naturally, it can sometimes take the public, and clients, a bit of deep breath drawing to fully ingest his mind-set.
The Chinese gallery owner who ended up with the seemingly steroid-fueled fowl, for example, wasn’t at all sure what he was getting.
“When I showed it to him and the others in the gallery there was silence for 10 minutes. Nobody spoke,” he recalls.
“I think they were a bit shocked. But it was okay in the end.”
It must be fun, and definitively spiritually healthy to live your life, and work, with such a sunny outlook and Hayon’s demeanor is commensurately light and joyful.
“Whenever I start a project, or have an idea, the thing that guides me is saying ‘why not?’”
Why not, indeed?
Funtastico closes on April 2, 2016; For more information: 073-215-1500 and www.dmh.org.il