Experimental architect, artist, and designer Guillermo Santomà is known for his radical installations. Whether developing an object, sculptural assemblage, interior, or exhibition staging, the Barcelona-based creative polyglot employs a “to create is to destroy” methodology. His bold environments, which are often assembled with no prior planning, challenge the limitations and perception of imagery.
Santomà’s latest project takes over Madrid’s Cerralbo Museum with a series of 13 provocative displays, on view until March 28. Temporarily replacing important works from the baroque house museum’s vast decorative arts collection, the designer introduced new furniture pieces and sculptural elements to establish sharp juxtapositions. However, in some instances, the new works blend in within the historic surroundings. This historicist complexity adds a layer to his overall intervention. It reveals that an expressive approach to design has always existed throughout history, from the dawn of the modern era to the present day.
Mounted in the Empire Sitting Room, Tapestry is one such example. At first glass, the flamboyant curtain design seems to fit in perfectly within the room, but on closer inspection, its crude zip tie construction suggests otherwise. The contrast between high and low materials is more explicit in another space. In the highly ornate Chamfered Corner Room, Santomà’s purple resin and foam Miami Couch appears to have exploded all over itself. The designer’s intention with this project is entirely satirical and playful but carries a deeper and darker meaning. The disparity between cheap materials like plastic and highly-crafted plasterwork or gilding evident in any room of the museum alludes to an eerily dystopic vision.