Discovering, Crossing and Creating are the three elements that shape the vision behind Nilufar Gallery. Founded by Nina Yashar in the late 90s, it is located in Via della Spiga (the “ Alley of the Ear”)—Milan’s prestigious fashion temple—where for 28 years, Nina and her sister, Nilufar have been ceaselessly making bridges between production and high-end contemporary art.
The gallery has more than once been part of the Pavillon des Arts et du Design in Paris as well as Design Miami/Basel, looking at the deconstruction of taste and tradition as an invitation to more liberated and fresh ways of seeing.
Nilufar Gallery brings together new talents and masters to realize a mutual vision through shaping occasions. These could be projects, editions, site-specific shows, and publications.
Other than Nilufar Gallery, Nina Yashar opened up Nilufar Depot in Viale Vincenzo Lancetti in Milan. Designed by Italian architect Massimiliano Locatelli, it is a three-story treasure trove that features 3,000 pieces of historic and contemporary design.
Why did you pick the name Nilufar for your gallery? Does it have any personal significance to you?
I chose the name Nilufar, meaning Lotus flower in Persian, as a homage to my sister, and also as a symbol of creation and mysticism.
I believe you started your career in antique carpets before you fell in love with design. Was there a particular object or experience that sparked this passion?
The object that brought me to discover design was a Swedish carpet which triggered the idea of a journey in Scandinavia. Once in Stockholm looking for carpets, I ended up browsing across furniture shops; so I fell in love and started buying vintage Scandinavian pieces. However, the very first piece I got hooked by was a wardrobe designed by Alvar Aalto for the Paimio Sanatorium.
Having started in the 90s, the contemporary design scene was a very different place. That is, design was dominated by European (white) men such as Marc Newson, Tom Dixon, Jasper Morrison, and Philippe Starck. What shifts have you seen in the furnishing/home decor world lately?
Certainly, the growing complexity of our world and society is resulting in a proliferation of inputs and outputs, and this is a condition that reflects a lot in the design world. It is indeed very difficult, if not impossible, to see one way; but it is evident that some directions are setting a trend. I am thinking about a more female-integrated design scene
What about the collectors? Have their attitudes or motivations changed at all?
Collectors have well broaden their knowledge of design, also thanks to the growing attention towards this sector witnessed by the proliferation of trade fairs and related events over the last 13 years. Over these years, I have realized that more and more collectors are starting to consider design as functional rather than beautiful. So, this can be seen as a pragmatic shift from design being considered only as an art piece worth collecting.
Have you noticed any changes in the way designers approach their work, particularly the younger ones?
It seems to me that young designers are increasingly interested in exploring new ways of making design; new processes which sometimes is the inspiration for framing the shape of an object. This is not only difficult but also interesting, because it is about representing transitory stages, and making such representations solid enough to get into the market. For example, I am thinking about Odd Matters and how their creative process results into very organic and colorful shapes which, at the same time, transcend and question the most functional aspect of a piece.
What is your process? How do you make decisions when it comes to what you collect? Are you influenced by the zeitgeist of the contemporary furniture and take inspiration from what’s happening at the shows? Or do you try to ignore all that and go with what you personally respond to?
Since the beginning of my career, my main drive has been to collect pieces that I personally like, pieces that satisfy my personal pleasure and search for beauty. Although I certainly live my time and like to observe what happens around me, I never follow trends nor pre-determined schemes.
I am interested in creating cross-temporal and cross-cultural situations. I like to call them “conversations” between pieces. And since they are very different from each other most of the time, I mainly try to put on stage dissonances with the aim of jotting a light on each piece’s peculiar value. This method results into the creation of an unforeseen harmony which is directly tied to my own taste and personal point of view in that moment.
Nilufar Depot // Viale Vincenzo Lancetti – Milan
What do you make of the recent trend back to the Memphis Style?
Memphis was an important chapter in the history of design which evidently keeps on feeding contemporary projects on a variety of aspects. Although, sometimes it seems to me that not all designers can reference Memphis without looking Memphis. This is because Memphis was so influential and deeply revolutionary that it keeps stimulating most designers’ visual repertoire, even though not all of them do actually know Memphis work.
What do you look for? Or how do you know when something (or someone) truly defines its (or their) era rather than a part of a passing trend?
I feel like I can relate to that piece, so I may add it to my collection. In the case of a person, we could likely become friends. A peculiar proximity (more than a proper friendship) I feel when approaching some pieces – that is close to that sensation you could feel near someone you may now know but you feel like you could become friend with them.
Is there an artist or designer who has been underappreciated in your opinion? Someone who you think deserves discovery or more attention as an influence in modern/contemporary design.
Augusto Romano, a modernist Italian architect whose work, characterized by a unique elegant and minimalist style, convened interesting influences from both Danish and Swedish designs along with Swiss and American architecture.
And finally, when do you feel most Iranian?
I feel Iranian all of the time, because to me, feeling Iranian means being cosmopolitan—always curious about different cultures which is very intrinsic to who I am and what I do.
Nilufar Depot // Viale Vincenzo Lancetti – Milan