Apr 02, 2023

This New Design Exhibition Is a Middle Finger to Knockoff Furniture

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Like many in the industry, Colony, a design gallery and community in New York City, has been knocked off countless times. "I can't even list them all, it's just so, so much—it's crazy," says co-founder Jean Lin. "We can't really get mad at it because it's everywhere…we just have to figure out a positive way forward."

It's not a unique predicament, either, with knockoffs from retailers, hotels, and even other designers becoming increasingly commonplace. Lin's solution? "The Knockoff Show," a new exhibition at Colony's showroom that both sheds light on and invites conversations about this maligned practice.

Lin tasked nine independent designers with creating new works that take cues from something or someone else. Some works, then, are less knockoff and more referential, like a credenza from Grain that lifts its checkerboard motif from an image of a 19th-century door made by a Baule artist. Others speak to the brief more directly: Erickson Aesthetics’ Chrome Manifold I directly copies the shape of the iconic Ekstrem chair (a postmodern design created by Terje Ekstrøm in 1984), swapping out its soft curves for chrome-finished sewer pipe. "I think the idea that nothing is completely original is there too," says Lin of the curation. "It's about figuring out where we find our inspiration, and at what point does inspiration turn into copying?"

One of the most literal interpretations of Lin's vision comes via Bec Brittain, who knocks off Lindsey Adelman's revered Branching Bubble design. Dubbed "Lindsey Adams," a cheeky reference to Adelman's maiden name, it directly speaks to the rampant copying and pasting that happens in the lighting space; it also alludes to Brittain's own career as part of Adelman's studio.

For Lin, the hope is that "The Knockoff Show" can transform feelings of anger and frustration into more productive discussions—ideally ones that will quell the copying trend altogether. "Rather than saying, ‘These people knocked me off,’ I think the conversation in this show is more around generative creativity toward the future," Lin says. "Finger-pointing in a circle doesn't really go anywhere."

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