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Artists are known for working in isolation—locking their doors and only showing their work to the world once it is finished. Not many choose to work as a partnership. But 10 years ago, artists Patrik Fredrikson and Ian Stallard decided to launch a company together and they have not looked back since.
I caught up with them at Hong Kong’s hip new creative hub PMQ, where they had launched their latest installation Prologue—a three-tonne disc made from crystal and steel. Fredrikson is a striking Swede with chiselled good looks and a slick of blonde hair. While Stallard rocks an urban-geek vibe. In the past 10 years, the duo have created some of the most talked-about art pieces in the world. The exploding Pandora chandelier, the Portrait, for Veuve Clicquot, which now hangs at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York—it is a piece of cracked steel lit from inside—and now the Prologue, which Swarovski commissioned and—at the time of writing—was about to move to the fair in Switzerland in a different incarnation.
The Central St Martins’ College of Art and Design alumni forged their partnership after meeting in the student bar. At that time Stallard specialised in ceramics and Fredrikson in furniture. They started small, banding together to show their wares at small art fairs in the UK, and then they realised they weren’t two artists sharing a stand, they were actually one company showing a collection. So in 1995 one of the most dynamic partnerships in design began.
The key to working with another artist so closely, explains Ian, is to have a thick skin. “I think it works best when you’re siblings or a couple. You can be brutally honest and forgive quickly,” he explains. While initially specialising in different areas, they have, over the years, grown together. They no longer have separate roles, they just take charge of different projects. They instinctly know when a project is right—as they did with the Prologue. “Two months ago, we did the sketch in our studio in Holborn, London, and that’s what we showed the client,” says Ian. “It wasn’t our first idea—we were going to encase it. Within our team, one has to argue their case when you put an idea forward.”
At Art Basel in Switzerland they planned to take it back to its original patina, paint it black and hang it from the ceiling, but in Hong Kong, it was designed to be as raw as the city itself. “We knew that it was going to be the first of many, which is why it’s called Prologue. We knew it would develop,” says Ian.
The challenge for the artists was that it needed to be able to hold its own in a city that doesn’t stop. They chose to place it in the new PMQ enclave, away from the main art fair. They wanted it to appeal to anyone who would pass by—office workers, builders… “We noticed the incredible amount of building work in Hong Kong and we wanted it to be part of this noisy, city that has a lot of energy,” says Ian. “We knew that people in Asia touch things a lot more. So we gave it just one coat of wax, rather than lacquer it so that the steel will react to the environment.”
The simple looking design came with its challenges. Not only did this clean shape need to bend and move, but the delicate curtain of brown crystals also needed to be able to battle the elements—in typhoon season. “We have included four struts that will hold it to the floor and if the weather gets really bad we can also unhook the crystals by pulling a cord,” explained Patrik.
However, this isn’t the first time they have worked with crystals… which brings me to my next question, “How did you kickstart your thinking?” Patrik gives a clue to how their minds work in the creation process… “We describe it in terms of volume. You can’t get any bigger than the exploding chandelier… you can’t top that volume, so we turned the volume down. After the chandelier
we created furniture with black crystals. We look at crystals as material. We wanted to move away from crystals as decoration.”
And the success of each piece is due to the crystals themselves, says Ian. “Crystals are always at the heart of the piece. Take away the crystals and it falls down. With crystals there is the bling, but a crystal was originally designed as a lens. They were once used to reflect candlelight. You can sculpt with light as a medium.”
The Prologue would return to their studio in London for the next stage of its makeover. And it’s the studio that is the basis of their next project. After experiencing such success, the duo want to shed light on other talent. “We are giving the space to young artists so that they can run with it,” says Patrik. This is their chance, they explain, to give back. “There is no company involvement—it’s just us,” says Patrik. Also though Ian quips “We might ask Veuve Clicquot for a couple of bottles for the party… ” ■

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