Roman and Williams open New York arts and crafts gallery

Roman and Williams’ New New York Gallery Celebrates Designers

Design studio Roman and Williams unveils Guild Gallery in New York, an exhibition space highlighting emerging designers and artists, and opening up to the work of London ceramicist Akiko Hirai (until December 23, 2021)

A confluence of forces led to the opening of Guild Gallery in New York, the latest venture from local design studio Roman and Williams. Located along the bustling thoroughfare of Canal Street, Guild Gallery is a beacon of contemplation dedicated to the presentation of the applied arts.

A celebration of individual creators and artists, many of whom have never had solo exhibitions before, the gallery opens with a year-long list featuring 12 practitioners from around the world – each a true force in the medium. chosen, whether ceramic, glass or wood. The first is an exhibition of ships by London-based ceramic artist Akiko Hirai (until 23 December 2021), with future programming that will include urushi lacquer pieces by Japanese artist Kenta Anzai and stone carvings from Dutch artist Mirjam de Nijs.

The founders of Roman and Williams, Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch, are no strangers to this corner of Manhattan. Their pioneering retail operation, Roman and Williams Guild, which majestically occupies the corner of Mercer and Canal streets, just steps from the new Guild Gallery, has drawn a flood of well-to-do visitors to this cultural crossroads since it opened in 2017. Known for its impeccable conservation of furniture, tableware and accessories, Guild announced the resurgence of Canal Street as a hub of art, design and creativity – a reputation it continues to strengthen, despite the impact of the global pandemic.

Guild Gallery by Roman and Williams celebrates creators and artists

Akiko Hirai, ‘Container and Content’, exhibition view, at the Guild Gallery, New York

The idea of ​​creating an even higher platform began for Standefer and Alesch after the company was commissioned to redesign the permanent UK galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The six-year-old business culminated with the unveiling and opening of the new 11,000-square-foot space in early 2020 – just seven days before New York City was locked down. The forced period of loneliness that followed gave Standefer and Alesch time to allow their personal pursuits and dialogues with the artists and creators in their orbit to merge.

“Stephen and I have been very dedicated to creators around the world and this conversation became more present as we worked on The Met,” says Standefer. ‘In the middle of trying to survive [during the pandemic], we started to see a shift in cultural dialogue and the renaissance of ceramic craftsmanship as applied art, ”says Standefer. “Ceramics have been celebrated, but [mostly] in a contextual environment. At the Guild, people can experience these objects in the context of their home, their lives and how they are used. From there about ten artists started to emerge, who I saw were already on a trajectory, they had credibility and goals and aspirations that were greater on a physical scale. They had a background and focus that required us to start shining a light on them for their form.

The facade of rue du Canal

She continues, “If you look at Roman and Williams’ core practice, we’ve been basically sort of maximalist, always about creating context, relationships and interactions between objects. We saw these 12 people and said, we have to consider isolating them. The practices of these artists require focused and elevated attention. I say this because it all happened in a very organic way. We wanted to celebrate them in a deeper and more focused way. We wanted to celebrate the handmade.

Akiko Hirai’s first exhibition is called “Container and Content”. Widely varied in scale and eluding classification with their idiosyncratic surface textures, Hirai’s irregular poppy pod and moon pot shapes are intentionally ambiguous, some seemingly half-formed and others about to take life. Presented on custom-designed oak plinths, accompanied by matching benches and translucent screens to create the opportunity for moments of introspection for visitors, the intricate and monumental aspects of Hirai’s practice are clear to see.

Akiko Hirai, ‘Container and Content’, exhibition view, at the Guild Gallery, New York

“Galleries rarely create contemplation and travel. The outlines consist in not revealing everything immediately. The gallery is modest, it’s not that big, but we wanted to make sense of the trip, ”says Standefer. “Everything is in a mono-material of oak, with a simple expression of the hand in the detail and the carpentry of the woodwork. These are all things you recognize when you look at the surface and texture.

She concludes: “I see ceramics as an incredible, almost semiotic, investigation into the history of humanity. It’s old, it’s global, it’s part of all cultures. It is part of our fundamental nature. I think during the pandemic people started to look at nature and recognize the land we live on. §

James C. Tibbs