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HAPPENINGText: Stephanie Bui (The Daily Couture)

The challenge to plastic pollution lies in tackling the notion of value, according to him. “How can we stop humans from throwing plastic bottles in the ocean? Have this plastic bottle costs 10 000 euros, because our system is dominated by money to measure value.

Kartell, Designer's day, George Nuku
Kartell, Designer’s day, George Nuku

The Maori artist praises other value systems equal to money, even higher to money, according to him. One of them is feeling, “because people don’t forget feelings”. “To create a feeling, we put a little bit of “extra” in front of what is “ordinary” in order to create “extraordinary”, because life is extraordinary”, he went on. “If you join all the extraordinary moments together, we have an extraordinary life. Then, all the fears and doubts leave the room”.

The soul nourishment at the heart of the artist’s artwork comes from “having quality time with the materials”. It’s all about design and repetition paving the way to a “repetitive self-analysis”: “I am dancing with the material. The material is taking away from George what is not essential in order to reveal George at this moment. I am expected to make the material sing and dance. Our ancestors don’t expect less. They don’t want to see a mediocre moment”.

This quest for creativity is what the artist is excited about: “you don’t know what you’ll imagine tomorrow, you can’t measure it, you can’t put it in box. The most dangerous and most exciting thing we probably have is our potential. You can’t measure this. Creativity arrives during the day, at night. No time to ever get bored. I am a Métis, he concluded. My occidental genealogy tells me that time is linear and that you walk into the future and that past is behind. My Maori side tells me you work in spiral, backwards, and that past is in front. Future is behind, it’s a memory. It tells me to remember the future”.


All in all, George Nuku’s artistic expression of mysticism somehow beautifully echoes what was praised by the Greek philosopher, Plotinus, as far back as the second century in his Enneads: “Go back inside yourself and look: if you do not yet see yourself as beautiful, then do as the sculptor does with a statue he wants to make beautiful; he chisels away one part, and levels off another, makes one spot smooth and another clear, until he shows forth a beautiful face on the statue. Like him, remove what is superfluous, straighten what is crooked, clean up what is dark and make it bright, and never stop sculpting your own statue, until the godlike splendor of virtue shines forth to you…. If you have become this, and seen it, and become pure and alone with yourself, with nothing now preventing you from becoming one in this way, and have nothing extraneous mixed with yourself… if you see that this is what you have become, then you have become a vision.”

Why expecting less than that from ourselves as well indeed?

The “Kartell and Maori art by George Nuku: the new design fusion” exhibit in Paris followed a previous show titled “Maori in Milan. The Ducal Salon by George Nuku” created by the MUDEC and set up in collaboration with the Kartell Museum in September 2016, where many of the works on display come from. Twenty of the furniture pieces of Ducal Salon were sold at an auction conducted by Sotheby’s. All the proceeds were donated to the Non-Profit Associazione Città Mondo, to help finance the project MUDEC P.O.P (People, Objects, Participation). The objective: enhancing the cultural patrimony of Asia, Africa, America, and Oceania in the care of MUDEC, thus stimulating real actions of intercultural participation and an active role in the interpretation of the museum and the heritage represented within it. This collaboration, according to Kartell, underscores its attention to the world of arts and culture including through the processes of research and experimentation.

Kartell and Maori art by George Nuku: The new design fusion
Date: 3rd – 14th May, 2017
Opening Hours: 11:00 – 18:00 (Closed Monday)
Place: Musée des Arts décoratifs
Address: 107 Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris

Text: Stephanie Bui (The Daily Couture)

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Fernando Trocca