LUXURYCULTURE.COM - Moss must haves


Murray Moss is one of the world's most influential design retailers. Come discover why the world looks better through Moss-tinted shades.

Design retail extraordinaire Murray Moss turned Manhattan's meatpacking district into a bed of design roses. Imagine what he could do for your home?

In 1994 Murray Moss opened Moss, a bright and inspiring design emporium in New York's meatpacking district. Since then, he has been credited for placing international design on New York's style agenda, igniting insatiable cravings for the stuff with each passing year. With sharp, daring and original strides he has repeatedly introduced designers and mounted events that challenge common perceptions of design — in 2000, The New York Times dubbed his anachronistic homage to decorative 18th century porcelain figurines the "death of Modernism."

When it comes to promoting design, Moss is like a fish in water. As a child, daily close encounters with his father's eclectic collection of travel souvenirs honed a taste for expressive objects with the power to brighten spaces and the lives within. Now Moss' own 'cabinet of curiosities' is developing into a full-flung enterprise: he opened two gallery spaces in Manhattan last year and this Fall, he's adding true flavor to the mix with 'Bar Cento Vini,' an Italian bar/café next to his Houston St gallery that he's opening with partner Nicola Marzovilla (owner of the Italian eatery I Trulli). Watch out for Moss Universal and Moss Gallery in LA sometime soon, and be sure to check out a sparkling installation of Murano crystal bells in the NY Gallery for X-Mas.

146 Greene Street
New York, NY 10012
+1 212 204 7100

Summer Exhibition
Les Visiteurs d'Ete.
June 8 through August 21, 2005
Forty-two rare vintage portrait-busts from the archives of France's ancient royal manufactory, SÈVRES; eight monumental BACCARAT chandeliers; contemporary crystal furnishings and mirrors by FIAM Italia; and tables designed by Ann Demeulemeester for BULO, Belgium.

Where did you develop your taste for design?

My father was an inventor, an electrical engineer, a photographer, a manufacturer of x-ray equipment, and a collector of "curiosities" from his frequent travels. We always had a darkroom for developing photographs in our house, a laboratory (somewhat scary), and a very eclectic array of objects which were purchased not for their "aesthetic" properties but usually for other reasons: Our home environment included such diverse oddities as the odd (huge) collection of 18th century silver powder horns, the carved statue of Don Quixote, the impressive Chinese cloisonne bowls, the various human skulls, and such "factory" elements in the architecture (1960) such as a food-pedaled steel drinking fountain in our formal dining room. In short, every object had a narrative, a "story". Things were quite alive, quite interesting. Mostly, it was fun.

How did these objects affect your outlook?
Objects, and architecture, were used to "customize" our lives, to accommodate our desired way of living and to express our interests, to serve as "souvenirs" of our experiences. Objects became Utopian: they were small gestures to accommodate my parents' desire to live, in that moment, in a more perfect world.

What is your definition of design perfection?
Terms such as "perfection" are completely relative. When I regard an object and (correctly or incorrectly) identify what I believe to be the designer's agenda, and for whatever reason empathize with that agenda or support that agenda or find that agenda interesting, and find that agenda to be articulated exceptionally beautifully, exceptionally intelligently (perhaps even poetically) and, in any case, successfully, then that object can become a "good" design to me, even "perfect".

What are two objects that can change one's life?
Well, for example: a new heart valve or a condom. Actually, I believe many objects can change one's life, and, in small or large ways, everyday, they do. Objects can be beneficial tools, they can be resonant souvenirs, and they can be allies. Why do we keep books that we've already read? They become the tangible evidence of our personal evolution: a flashback, a visual summary of our growth, our progress.

What are some of your most prized design possessions?
I very much love living with a "wall organizer" executed by Italian architect Gio Ponti in 1949, which I bought about 15 years ago. It has various shelves, and little display "boxes" or raised platforms, which are also illuminated from behind. To me, it is a kind of landscape, as if Gio Ponti himself is organizing my personal objects, directing me where to place things, and how. It imposes a kind of order, a rigor, to my things. Diverse objects become "of a piece". It is as beautiful to me as the Seagram Building.

I also love my desk calculator, designed in 1978 by Dieter Rams for Braun, Germany. It too is a kind of landscape, an imposed "organizational tool" which I find very pleasurable to use. The keyboard, and the colors used to delineate various functions, are as well chosen and laid out as a beautiful garden.

"Wall organizer" by Gio Ponti, 1949

The Seagram Building

Desk calculator by Dieter Rams for Braun, Germany, 1978
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Who is your designer icon?
It's like asking who is your favorite musician, your favorite chef, your favorite color, and your favorite writer... I love so many different points of view, so many different designers.
Today? At this moment? I might say Dutch designer Hella Jongerius.

Hella Jongerius
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Hella Jongerius book
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What has been the most remarkable shift in design aesthetics since you first opened your store in 1994?

In 2000, a German friend introduced me to the ancient Bavarian porcelain manufactory, Nymphenburg, located outside of Munich. I fell in love with the ancient work of Franz Anton Bustelli, circa 1754-1760. Figurines (Comedia del Arte; "peasants"...etc.) Also, table ornaments in the form of a miniaturized garden in porcelain. It scared me. I was a product of "modernism" (a victim?). I abhorred decoration, pattern. My religion was Form Follows Function. My God was the Machine. I was brainwashed. Nymphenburg (Bustelli's work) liberated me. That year we did a very large exhibition of Bustelli's figurines and "table garden" at Moss, elaborately decorated 18th century soup tureens included. The New York Times was very kind, and referred to the event as the "death of Modernism".

Bustelli figures :

Chinese with serpent (flowered garment)

Chinese with serpent (striped garment)
Egg selling woman

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Exhibition of Bustelli's figurines and "table garden" at Moss

Moss continues to work with Nymphenburg and in spring 2005 mounted a large installation of majolica garden figures
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What was your hardest sale?
A completely burned, charred Ettore Sottsass "Memphis" bookcase, by Maarten Baas. ($22,000.)

Ettore Sottsass " Memphis " book case by Maarten Baas – waiting for picture
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Your most surprising find?
The 1754 porcelain crucifix designed by Franz Anton Bustelli for Nymphenburg Porcelain Manufactory, continuously in production for approx. 250 years.

The 1754 porcelain crucifix by Franz Anton Bustelli for Nymphenburg Porcelain Manufactory
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What was your first design purchase?
As an adult (I think I was around 19 years old): a small porcelain statue of Leda and the Swan, circa 1925, by Royal Copenhagen, Denmark (very out of character at the time; I can't remember why I bought it, but it is, in fact, quite beautiful.) I've given it now to my niece, Sarah, and I'm so happy she likes it.

A porcelain statue of Leda and the Swan by Royal Copenhagen, 1925

What was your last?
A stool by French designer Patrick Jouin, which is made through a process of rapid prototyping called stereolithography, which allows one to "print" three dimensional structures from a CAD computer model. The final physical model replicates the CAD computer model to the finest detail....

Solid collection stool by Patrick Jouin
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What's the most exquisite design you've ever come across?
The wine glass designed by Josef Hoffmann, 1917, from his Patrician service for Lobmeyr, Austria. The glass is blown in extremely thin-walled "muslin" crystal, in order to create the thinnest possible frontier between the liquid and one's lips. It is extremely fragile. I like fragile things, where one can afford them (I would not, for example, like a fragile heart valve). A fragile drinking glass can cause one to modify one's behavior; to interrupt, for a moment, our brutal, aggressive manner. It requires one to become graceful, careful. In our interaction with this object, we become civilized.

The wine glass by Josef Hoffmann, 1917
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What were the most interesting pieces from the last Milan furniture fair?
For me: the "Baghdad" tables created by Ezri Tarazi for Edra, Italy
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The new ceramics created by Hella Jongerius for Makkum, the Netherlands
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Stitched-leather "Lukum" chaise longue by Patricia Urquiola for Moroso, Italy.
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How do you perceive design, and popular interest in design, evolving over the next few years?
More exposure, leading naturally to more interest. As people become more informed, they become more comfortable with articulating their preferences. The old adage: a better audience leads to better work.

What's your definition of a design faux pas?
I hate double-function. (i.e. it's a table, but also a surfboard; it's a chandelier, but also a trapeze.) ( I also hate reversible clothing...)

What's up next at Moss?
With a partner/friend Nicola Marzovilla (who owns the great NY Italian restaurant, I Trulli), we're opening "Bar Cento Vini" in the late Fall, '05, next door to the new Moss Gallery on Houston Street. Italian bar/cafe going from breakfast to light lunch to light dinner; 100 "edited" Italian wines offered by the glass, or by the bottle/case in what will be our wine shop next door, to be called Cento Vini. (Also, it's an exhibition space.)

Looking for a location in Los Angeles to open Moss Universal, a gallery to feature the Universal 606 Shelving System designed by Dieter Rams for Vitsoe (we have the exclusive distribution in North America) as well as to use as Moss Gallery space, West Coast...

Working on our Nov./Dec. installation for our new NY Gallery: a project between Fernando and Humberto Campana and the fabled Italian (Murano) glass manufactory, Venini. The project will explore all aspects of crystal "bells".

My luxury is both living and working with the person I love (and love to be with), Franklin Getchell; lack of consciousness re: when I am working and when I am not; and having, for better or for worse, an audience who regularly shows up.

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