Tucked away on a street near London’s Clerkenwell Road, furniture shop Viaduct is slightly off the beaten track, but it’s a local institution in an area heavily populated by designers and architects. Its reputation rests on the risk-taking approach of its founder James Mair, who has consistently taken a gamble on stocking high-end pieces by little-known designers, many from overseas. As such, Viaduct introduces fresh ideas to a British audience and broadens the parameters of desirable design. This year, the shop is 25 years old and, to celebrate this, is holding a show called Viaduct 25+, from May 15 to 23.
True to form, Mair will be spotlighting some work that has never been exhibited in the UK before, this time from countries as far-flung as Botswana and South Korea. “In future, I think there will be more designers emerging from east Asia, Africa and South America,” he says.
Fittingly, the exhibition has a historical element: it will include some of Mair’s privately owned pieces (not for sale) by designers he has championed in the past, from André Dubreuil to Maarten van Severen.
Mair’s taste is eclectic, making Viaduct’s stock even more unpredictable. A couple of pieces in the show by two South Korean designers couldn’t be more different: Wonmin Park’s chair (£8,250, second picture) made of bold intersecting planes in frosted pastel shades and Jinil Park’s Drawing chair (£1,770, third picture), which resembles a sketch yet is three-dimensional. And there will be designs produced by Botswana-based manufacturer Mabeo, including a table with a striped base by Patricia Urquiola (£1,900, first picture), a stool by Claesson Koivisto Rune (£750) and Patty Johnson’s lipstick-red Maun Windsor chair (£550).
The plus sign in the show’s title is clever and enticing. It implies Mair’s quest for sourcing cutting-edge design is far from complete, but intriguingly open-ended.