Meet 5 Rising Stars Signaling a New Wave in Collectible Design

With work ranging from the fugly to the fantastical, this quintet of up-and-comers invests functional objects with wit and wonder.

Mono bench and Mono chair (2019) by Greem Jeong

Greem Jeong

The way Greem Jeong strips furniture down to its most essential forms confounds those who view her works. For her Mono collection, the 26-year-old Seoul native wrapped chromatic silicone steel-and-foam tubes around transparent tables and chairs in rhythmic formations, like giant Slinkies or animal tails. “They stand still but feel as dynamic as living creatures,” she says, describing the collection as 3D doodles that “draw question marks in people’s minds.” Jeong studied product and spatial design at ESAD de Reims in France before setting out to create objects that animate their surroundings. She draws inspiration from Helen Frankenthaler’s color-field paintings and the frozen motion of Eva Hild’s sculptures. These days, she’s experimenting with fur, velvet, and steel, materials that she hopes will lend her the flexibility to render Mono at different scales, from the tiny to the monumental. —Ryan Waddoups


Large Wiggle Planter by Joseph Algieri

Joseph Algieri

“People take a militant approach to everything,” says the designer Joseph Algieri, who studied industrial design at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute. “I like to just let it happen.” The 29-year-old New Jersey native radiates a nonchalance that comes through in his work, which includes earthenware cigarette sculptures, wiggly ceramic planters, and foam table lamps that evoke pastel lava oozing from a volcano. (He recently showcased a table lamp that resembles a Cheeto-dusted finger at the Collectible fair in Brussels.) Though replete with tongue-in-cheek touches, his work maintains a reverence for color and composition. “Sometimes the best inspiration comes from outside my realm,” he says. “Give me a Pedro Almodóvar movie or an Osma Harvilahti photo any day.” —R.W.


Chairs by Thomas Barger

Thomas Barger

Thomas Barger uses furniture to ruminate on his childhood. “Growing Up,” his 2018 solo exhibition at Salon 94 Design in New York, featured chunky, throne-like chairs modeled on the sand formations near his rural Illinois hometown. Lately, Barger has been looking for beauty in humble materials—a product, he says, of his early stints working in the studios of detritus devotees Misha Kahn and Jessi Reaves, who encouraged him to push trash to inconceivable ends. With their unconventional forms, variegated colors, and protruding limbs, Barger’s rough-hewn sculptures suggest peculiar chairs and tables. “We all have a relationship with furniture, so there are many ways of entering my work,” says the 27-year-old Brooklyn-based artist, who is fascinated by “the function and deconstruction of furniture objects.” To make his sculptures, he sources discarded paper from the street, mulches it in a Cuisinart blender, and applies it with resin onto found Ikea chair frames. His new work blends sculptural forms and existing furniture parts to create something entirely novel, much like “adding extra gables to a McMansion, or expanding a dinner table for a growing family.” —R.W.


The Dump Is Full of Images (2019) and Your Organs Will Move to Fill the Void (2017) by Holly Hendry

Holly Hendry

Holly Hendry explores fraught subjects, such as the plastic-waste crisis and excessive consumerism, with super-sized sculptures that look like they popped out of a Nickelodeon cartoon. The Royal College of Art graduate, now 30 and based in London, mixes familiar materials in unfamiliar ways: Layers of lipstick, soap, ash, and turmeric mingle with plaster and marble. For the 2019 Lyon Contemporary Art Biennale, following a commission from Selfridges and solo shows in Berlin, London, Paris, and Rome, she created Deep Soil Thrombosis, a winding installation made of metal ducts with a pink-and-brown pellet emerging from one end. At the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Northern England, through April 19, viewers can take in The Dump Is Full of Images (2019), a skin-colored conveyor belt, printed with images of internal organs and detritus, that whirls through steel rollers. Hendry credits the sculptor Franz West with inspiring her imaginatively subversive work. “It deals with the seriousness of the absurd and the vitality of dumb matter,” she says. “Laughter and dying seem quite opposed, but they’re both uncontrollable bodily functions.” —Tiffany Jow


Sofa by Ryan Belli. Photography by Tim Hans

Ryan Belli

Six years ago, Ryan Belli started interning for the Haas Brothers while studying product design at the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California. Three days in, he was made a full-time employee. The experience led the 30-year-old Angeleno to launch his own studio, where he pursues his own work on weekends while still working for the Haas Brothers. “They’re very supportive of my personal exploration,” he says. His output reflects his Haasian influences—whimsical, anthropomorphic creations that conjure a fantastical realm—yet abounds with references to design greats. The upholstered backrests of a hand-carved wooden sofa, for example, resemble upright lollipops while evoking Pierre Paulin’s curves and India Mahdavi’s colors. Every part of Belli’s work—hues, shapes, materials—is intended for maximum joy. “I’ve been thinking a lot about playground structures,” he says. —R.W.

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