Mark Grattan won’t be put into a box, but the sensual furniture he creates for VIDIVIXI merits a vitrine. Since relocating from Brooklyn to Mexico City in 2016, VIDIVIXI has landed on a fast track to becoming one of the design industry’s most sought-after purveyors of seductive and highly sophisticated furniture infused with sumptuous materiality and global craftsmanship. Perhaps the brand’s most recognizable piece is the Docked en Rio platform bed, which features curved cotton modules that support a walnut frame—a reference to traditional Japanese furniture and an unmistakable statement piece.
The bicoastal design gallery The Future Perfect has long had its sights set on Grattan’s highly detailed approach to design and craftsmanship. “Mark has an incredible sense of the very little things that subconsciously give the work an inimitable sense of chic,” says founder David Alhadeff, who recently signed VIDIVIXI to his gallery’s growing roster. “Good design is rooted in the small things that most people pay no attention to, but it’s the things you don’t notice that separate the good from the great.” Under normal circumstances, The Future Perfect might be toasting the new partnership with a vernissage attended by the New York design cognoscenti, but the coronavirus had other plans. Both parties were forced, somewhat serendipitously, into conceiving a way to showcase VIDIVIXI’s work digitally.
Enter Douglas Fenton, founder of the 3-D visualization studio Major Visual, who painstakingly developed a cinematic digital rendering that places seven new VIDIVIXI pieces in a museum-like setting. This is no white cube, nor does it resemble the half-hearted virtual viewing rooms that have become ubiquitous as physical galleries and museums remain closed. Rather, the seductive setting shrouds the furniture in a sexy shadowplay that’s slightly evocative of film noir and old-time detective movies. An aura of mystery looms large: “Film noir stills usually show something about to happen,” says Grattan, who cites Alfred Hitchcock as chief inspiration. “There’s always an element of plot, of anxiety and suspense.”
This feeling of uneasy intrigue immediately comes to light in the film’s opening shot, which sees a foreboding darkness wash over the Docked en Rio bed. Scoring the scene are the reverberating textures of R&B powerhouse Kelela’s moody 2015 hit “The High,” echoing like a somber heartbeat. (Kelela immediately lent her track to the film after Grattan messaged her manager on Instagram.) A longtime listener, Grattan gravitated toward Kelela because she refuses to pigeonhole herself into a single genre. “Her experimentation is subtle,” he says. “She plays well at the club, she plays well on the beach, and she plays well in a VIDIVIXI video.” Close-ups of the Switch Sideboard’s sleek leather surface and the mirrored VX side tables move into the frame as Kelela gently coos the song’s hushed opening lyrics. By the time she launches into the chorus (“I’ll do anything for the high”), the inner euphoria of VIDIVIXI’s furniture comes into full view.
Also visible is the furniture’s cohesion from piece to piece, perhaps stemming from the 20th-century Italian design references that Grattan meticulously invests into his work. He also admits to being decidedly anti-concept, which enables greater versatility. “So much design work nowadays is heavy on concept,” he says. The materials—and how Grattan bends them to his will—speak for themselves. (He also cites a George Nakashima quote, reinforcing the importance of designing with 360 degrees in mind, as a guiding mantra.)
Major Visual and VIDIVIXI had been on the precipice of a partnership for more than a year, but the stars never quite aligned to make it feasible. “Then the quarantine happened,” says Grattan. “Douglas had free time on his hands, so he played around with some of our drawings.” When the time came to plan his inaugural show for The Future Perfect, Grattan immediately sold gallery director Laura Young on Fenton’s visualization skills. “I love his compositions, his photorealism, and his willingness to take criticism,” Grattan says with a laugh. “He has always loved our brand and wanted to be involved somehow. He just gets it.”
Once the trio landed on a concept, the creation process flowed without a hitch. Conceiving a virtual show posed a healthy challenge for Young, who had never mounted an exhibition outside the physical confines of a gallery. Establishing limitations and boundaries was key. “The reality of a digital platform creates infinite possibilities, and facing such freedom can truly be an uphill battle,” she says. “Typically, working within the physical space gives me all final control and say, so letting go and giving the final decisions to Douglas was a whole new territory for me.” Once the final product was in close reach, however, “it proved that, at this point, I would trust Douglas and Mark with my life.” Alhadeff concurs: “We all had an ‘aha’ moment that this is an incredible way to launch work irrespective of the times.”
For Grattan, the occasion lends credence to his dedication to taking chances with his career, no matter how high the risk. “The fact that VIDIVIXI can exist in different environments using different mediums and still communicate the same provocation, eloquence, sense of style, and sensitivity to detail… I’m proud of that.”