news digest | Dec 21, 2021 |
Fritz Hansen makes an acquisition, Sotheby’s record-breaking year and more

In this month of twinkle lights and tinsel, it’s a good time to pay homage to the inventor of the artificial Christmas tree, Si Spiegel—an accomplishment preceded by his previous life as a radio announcer and decorated World War II bomber pilot. And it’s a good time to read the latest announcements crossing the BOH news desk.

Business News

Sotheby’s sales for 2021 have surpassed $7.3 billion, The Art Newspaper reports, marking the highest year-end total in the company’s 277-year history—and there are still more than 20 auctions left before the new year. That haul far exceeds 2020’s—this year’s numbers are a whopping 68 percent higher than last year’s $5 billion. The increase can be attributed both to an influx of new buyers and an increase in online sales; roughly 39 percent of buyers and 44 percent of bidders were new to Sotheby’s this year, while a massive 92 percent of this year’s total bids were placed online.

The Rhode Island School of Design has appointed Crystal Williams as its 18th president, following the recent retirement of outgoing president Rosanne Somerson. When she assumes the new role in April 2022, Williams will become the first Black president in the institution’s history. Currently, she serves as Boston University’s vice president and associate provost for community and inclusion. As an educator, Williams is known for her commitment to advancing initiatives around diversity, equity and inclusion—a legacy she plans to continue in her new post. “I entered this search because I believe in the value of art and design to elevate and amplify the human experience, and to narrate who we have been and who we can become,” Williams told Interior Design.

Fritz Hansen has purchased fellow Danish furniture company Skagerak, Dezeen reports. Following the acquisition, Fritz Hansen will add outdoor furniture to its existing product suite of furniture, lighting and accessories, picking up such pieces as Skagerak’s indoor-outdoor furniture collection Lilium, which was designed in collaboration with Danish architect Bjarke Ingels’s firm BIG.

Garrett Leather Corporation, a privately owned distributor of Italian upholstery leather, has acquired the New York–based Mohawk River Leather Works leather finishing company. Mohawk will continue to operate under its current name, with founders Joe Sicilia and Bob Hojohn remaining at the company’s helm. The purchase will allow the distributor to offer a wider range of curated colors and textures with reduced lead times.

After 75 years in operation, Wisconsin-based retailer WG&R Furniture has decided to transfer ownership to its employees, Furniture Today reports. The family-run business, which employs 280 workers and has showrooms across the state, will transition to an employee stock ownership plan, with Jim Greene staying on as CEO. WG&R is the latest in a string of industry players making the same move, as Whitewood Furniture, Kentwood Office Furniture, Norwalk Furniture and KI have all made the transition in recent years.

Travel startup AvantStay has announced the completion of a $160 million Series B funding round, TechCrunch reports. The company’s platform facilitates the decoration and rental process for high-end homes used for vacations and short-term stays, and has grown its revenue tenfold over the last two years while expanding its number of properties to more than 1,000. With the new capital, the company plans to fuel further expansion and continue developing its technology to encompass more of the property rentals business.

Moore & Giles has named Tray Petty as its new president, while outgoing president Sackett Wood will remain with the company as CEO. Petty joined Moore & Giles in 1994 and has served the company in a variety of roles over the years, most recently as executive vice president. Building off of 25 years of collaboration, Petty will join Wood in ushering the company into its next era. “To look forward, you must first look back. I've learned from some of the best–Sackett Wood and Don Giles–and I thank them both for everything they have done for me personally, and more importantly what they have done for this company,” Petty said in a statement. “I am excited about the opportunity to lead Moore & Giles as it continues its growth in all aspects of the business."

Launches and Collaborations

E-commerce marketplace Juniper has announced the January 2022 launch of JuniperCredit, which will offer qualified buyers a baseline of up to $250,000 per company for JuniperMarket purchases with standard Net 60 terms, allowing buyers 60 days to pay for purchases. Buyers will have the ability to manage one single line of credit across multiple vendors through the B2B e-commerce platform.

Tech-enabled online marketplace Bzaar has just launched with the completion of a $4 million seed funding round, making its debut as an “online showroom for India.” Geared toward small to medium-size retailers, the platform offers more than 15,000 SKUs across the sectors of textiles, home, fashion and jewelry, with a special focus on artisans and small producers across Southeast Asia—including community-focused and women-led brands like Jaipur Rugs, Amoliconcepts and Eyda Home.

To celebrate its 175th anniversary, the Smithsonian Institution’s long-closed Arts + Industries Building has reopened with the “Futures” exhibition, for which artist and architect Suchi Reddy of Reddymade Architecture and Design has debuted a light and artificial-intelligence installation titled “Me + You.” For the project, Reddy tapped Levia Lew, principal and co-founder of architectural lighting design firm Reveal Design Group, to join her team in creating the cloud of light points, glowing acrylic rods, and LED portals and panels housed in the building’s 90-foot-high rotunda. Visitors are encouraged to approach an LED portal and speak their vision for the future in a single word. Through AI technology, the piece translates the word’s emotion and tone into a kinetic mandala of color and light and combines it with an additive display of all visitors’ “collective futures.”

Recommended Reading

For the past two decades, Pleasant Rowland, the creator of the American Girl doll empire, has completed massive renovations throughout the town of Aurora, New York—a project some have compared to a “town-size dollhouse.” For Curbed, Clio Chang dives into the undertaking, which includes Rowland buying the town’s dilapidated Main Street buildings and renovating them in different historical styles of her choosing.

The Eames Lounge is an enduring symbol of midcentury style, a coveted statement piece in homes of varying design schemes—but what’s the story behind the seat? For House Beautiful, Hadley Keller traces the chair’s origins all the way back to Charles and Ray Eames’s early years at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, then explores the piece’s manufacturing process and—perhaps most importantly—explains how to spot an authentic Eames chair in the wild.

Unstable working conditions, long hours and low pay are common for architects in training. For The Architect’s Newspaper, Jessica Myers makes the case for unionization as a tool to address the problem—the biggest hurdle, she explains, is challenging the prevailing mindset among architectural workers that the upper-middle-class status the profession conveys means its members aren’t fit to think of themselves as laborers. The New York Times also took a look at this issue, homing in on the recent unionization efforts among the employees at New York–based firm SHoP Architects, best known for its work on the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, as a case study among a rising wave of labor organizing in the industry.

Cue the Applause

At the annual Trade Show News Network gala, International Market Centers chief customer and marketing officer Dorothy Belshaw was honored with the 2021 Outstanding Show Pro Award for her efforts in leading the creation of IMC’s Together Safely COVID protocols, which she developed through a combination of customer research, local and state guidelines, and input from a top epidemiologist.

In Memoriam

Pritzker Prize–winning British architect Richard Rogers has passed away at the age of 88, The New York Times reports. He leaves a legacy in the design world for reshaping museums, monuments and institutions as accessible centers for social and cultural connection. Rogers’s architectural achievements include the Millennium Dome in London, the Lloyd’s of London building, and the Pompidou Centre in Paris, which he designed as “a place for all people.” The ethos was extended to his own practice, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, where the 160-person staff shares in the firm’s profits, a percentage of which is donated to charity. “He wanted urbanism to be a positive force—he worked all his life to make cities civilizing places, not just collections of disconnected buildings,” wrote critic Paul Goldberger for the Times.

Homepage image: “Me + You, ” Suchi Reddy’s light and AI installation at the Smithsonian’s Arts + Industries Building | Courtesy of The Smithsonian

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