Israeli-born, London-based artist and architect Ron Arad, design’s anarchist of the 1980s and ’90s, continues to work on his own terms. Enigmatic, experimental and favouring the handmade over mass production, he was catapulted onto the international stage as a furniture designer by the Rover armchair – a design based on a leather car seat salvaged from a scrapyard, fused with metal pipes and transformed in his Covent Garden studio into the now iconic sculptural piece of 1981. His work became slicker with time – from the snake-like slither of his wall-mounted Bookworm shelf of 1993 to the sinuous organic forms of the 2006 Blo-Void chair. And while he may have left his early “bad boy” mantle behind, Arad has inspired several new-generation boundary-breakers. Martino Gamper, Max Lamb and Paul Cocksedge all studied under him at the Royal College of Art, where as a professor (from 1997 to 2009), he is said to have been most interested in teaching students how to think for themselves. It’s within this context that his next project – a somewhat surprising collaboration with luxury interior lifestyle brand Oka – is perfectly in tune with the Arad MO.
The result of their alliance is Ako: a limited edition of 10 chairs hand-finished by the designer – two of which are being unveiled at PAD London in Mayfair – fusing Oka’s eclectic aesthetic with Arad’s industrial edginess. The chairs (£18,000 each, available exclusively from The Invisible Collection), reference Arad’s earlier work Chair by its Cover (1989) – a wooden seat encased by a concave mirror, elevating its status from ordinary to extraordinary. In the new design, expected to be highly collectable, Oka’s Washakie chair is wrapped in polished copper and stainless steel, while the upholstery has been updated in hot pink or burnt orange. The prototype for Ako will be made available to collectors at auction next year. However, a more accessible Arad chair, named Undercover, will also be released as part of Oka’s main collection in early 2020.
“On the face of it, what Oka does is the other side of the spectrum to what I do. But that doesn’t matter,” says Arad. “It is very English, which I love, and there are lots of common elements – quality, perfectionism and a culture of luxury and tactility.”