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SEBASTIAN ERRAZURIZ (1977)
Chilean born, New York based artist and designer Sebastian Errazuriz was raised in London; took art classes in Washington DC, film courses in Edinburgh, and obtained a design degree in Santiago. He later received his Master’s in Fine Arts from New York University. He currently lives and works in New York with parallel workshops in Santiago.
A prodigious and obsessive workaholic, Sebastian became, at the age of 28, the second living South American artist to have work auctioned at Sotheby’s Important Twentieth Century Design year of sale. In 2007 Errazuriz was selected one of the top emerging international designers by I.D. Magazine. In 2010 he received the title of Chilean Designer of the Year. In 2011 he was selected for the Compasso d’ Oro and at the end of that year his work was the talk of Design Miami Basel.
Sebastian Errazuriz’s work has been exhibited alongside the most celebrated architects and designers in over forty international exhibitions. His work has been included in exhibitions at the Copper Hewitt, National Museum of Design in New York, The Helsinki Museum of Contemporary Art, The Vitra Museum in Weil AM Rheim in Germany, The Museum of Art and Design in New York, The Bellevue Arts Museum in Washington, The Mint Museum in Charlotte, The Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY and the National Museum of Fine Arts in Santiago. He is currently preparing his first museum solo exhibition for the fall and winter of 2014 at the Carnegie Museum of Art.
Sebastian’s work has been featured in multiple magazine covers and portrayed in over 1000 press articles by the specialized art and design media. He has also received critical acclaim from The New York Times, The Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal. In addition, his work has been featured in mainstream TV in BBC, CNN, ABC, and NY1. Multiple books and catalogues feature his projects and his first monograph The Journey of Sebastian Errazuriz was published and distributed internationally by Gestalten in 2012.
The Confessions of Sebastián Errazuriz
Or On Bastard Occupations and Other Dark Tales of Art and Design
Sebastián Errazuriz’s bourgeoning career reminds me of that famous scene in Roman Polanski’s “Chinatown.” In it, Detective Jake Gittes is holding Evelyn Mulwray by the arm at the bottom of the stairs while he machine-guns questions at her. “She’s my daughter,” Evelyn declares evenly before Gittes sends her head spinning with a sharp slap. “She’s my sister,” she shouts before receiving another whack. “My sister, my daughter,’ she cries out astonishment, “She’s my sister AND my daughter!”
An immensely talented young artist and designer with few generational equals,
Sebastián Errazuriz knows full well what it is to straddle two disciplines that refuse to admit that they’re genetically related. The sort of savvy innocent one rarely encounters in an age of niche specialization, Errazuriz is one of a handful of international creators whose mixing of genres, trades and disciplines consistently produces work that is 100% up-to-date contemporary. Errazuriz’s installations and designs often constitute a bracing Jake Gittes-type backhand for experts. Regular art-loving folks, on the other hand, tend to assimilate his more extreme innovations like ingenious surprises.
A figure who confesses to swimming in the murky waters of the messy, the hybrid and the sometimes unclassifiable, Errazuriz brings to his approach a freshness that is remarkably salutary. In a creative environment full up with instant initiates, his approach is intuitively interdisciplinary. An artist capable—to borrow a line from F. Scott Fitzgerald—of holding two opposing ideas in the mind at once (the novelist figured it was “a test of a first-rate intelligence”), Errazuriz embodies a set of contradictions he repeatedly resolves by jaywalking across creative intersections. His example amply proves that one way to test barriers is to plow right through them.
“I don’t know where the line is between art and design,” Errazuriz has disclosed in interviews on several occasions. The kind of matter-of-fact statement that constitutes a professional suicide note for most artists and designers, this admission drives Errazuriz’s single-minded pursuit of an essential transformative ideal. “It’s important to me that a project consist of just a little twist,” the young polymath has declared, “because I ultimately want people to see the obvious, the everyday differently.” Put in terms of the artist-designer’s double-barreled practice, these words (along with a soupcon of Duchamp thrown in) translate into the following methodology—found objects, yes; building from scratch, only if it can’t really be helped. Rarely in the work of a young creator has so much been done with so little.
Errazuriz fundamentally rejects the unexamined consensus that distinguishes art from design today. An academic notion passed down among several generations of postmodern cultural cognoscenti, this received wisdom still commits objects of design to an overwhelmingly instrumental functionality, and most art to a self-referential uselessness that easily turns sterile during difficult times. Ignoring convention, Errazuriz has instead become expert at imbuing works of design with challenging content, while stubbornly arguing for conceptual artworks that propose some measure of utility. Deployed either as informational goads or outright sociopolitical provocations, these last often prove shocking, even incendiary. Juiced up with a mixture of formal efficiency and thematic concentration, Errazuriz repeatedly jolts viewers with messages that electrically supercharge the overlooked and the everyday.
Whether designing Occupy Chairs from replicas of hand-scrawled signs created by anti-Wall Street protestors (these messages now “occupy” the households of several prominent members of the 1%) or devising the conceptual mural American Kills (installed outside his studio, it showcased original research demonstrating that the suicide rate of American soldiers doubled the number of U.S. Iraq war casualties in 2009), Errazuriz is nothing if not meticulous in finding ways in which to bring awareness to a heightened pitch of feeling. A logical-ecstatic state the artist likely learned via an exacting Jesuit education, this mood permeates the great majority of his work. Intense, argumentative and perfectionist in the extreme, Errazuriz’s creative stance constitutes an aesthetic and artistic militancy that promotes controversy (as opposed to conformism) as the sine qua non of the artist’s credo.
Which brings us to how Errazuriz came to turn his failings into blessings—like a regular little sinning St. Augustine—and adapted what might easily become a conflicted creative practice into artistic manner both incisive and unorthodox. Rather than bend to established norms, this successful multitasker simply went and redrew the frontiers between art and design himself. “Art is not supposed to have a functionality, and I think that’s wrong,” Errazuriz has said with the natural independence of a southpaw. “Design limited to merely functional pieces is also wrong,” he has additionally declared—“I need to work between the two.” An artist-designer who readily confesses to the crime of aesthetic and conceptual impurity, Errazuriz has shown that it is possible to strike a balance between art and design without significantly subordinating one discipline into the other.
“I used to tell people that design was my glamorous day job,” Errazuriz once told me before going on to say that he has no intention of ever giving it up for a career based exclusively on making art. “The truth is I need both passionately,” he added emphatically. An artist and designer whose interdisciplinary approach is as mongrel as it is idiosyncratic, his example points the way forward for messier, more experimental, increasingly contaminated creative practices. Today, Sebastián Errazuriz doesn’t just do art and design. He is, instead, both an artist AND a designer—with all the liberating implications that entails. Ultimately, being a bastard is no good unless it can be shouted from the hilltops. Just ask Evelyn Mulwray and Jake Gittes if it isn’t so.
"I love what Sebastian is doing with art and design"
“Humorously avant-garde/ Demonstrating that things are never quite what they seem”
-The New York Times
“Demands us to pause and reconsider familiar objects.”
-The Financial Times
“We were honored to be the first auction house to sell a work of Sebastian”
-James Zemaitis: Director of Sothebys XXth century Design
“A cerebral aesthete”/ “Errazuriz’s design has the wit of conceptual art.”
“Unabashed confidence” / “His work is conceptual with a subtle social consciousness.”
-The Huffington Post
“Errazurizs projects focus on the dichotomies of life and death”
“The inspiration behind his work lies in a distant and more spiritual place.”
-The Daily News
“An immensely talented young artist and designer with few generational equals”
-Christian Viveros-Faune: Art critic for The Art Newspaper & The Village Voice
“Sebastian Errazuriz / When an idea is new it’s like looking through a telescope.”
-The Wall Street Journal
“A powerful cocktail of ingenuity, talent, humor and drama.”
“Mind-bending designs” / “Sebastian Errazuriz has a macabre, wild imagination and his pieces are beautifully made.”
-New York Magazine
“A genuine talent” / “Changing the way we view and interact with seemingly innocuous objects.”
“A designer against all pre-approved banality.”
“Sebastián Errázuriz is half merry prankster, half brooding death-poet. But he’s all artist and all designer.”
“Death, humor and the history of Chile fuel his creations”
“Brings to mind the great questions of life”
“His experimental style provokes thought and humor in everyday objects.”
“Never fails to amaze viewers.”
“Sebastian Errazuriz has the ability to transform nature, even at its darkest into something sleek and glamorous”
-Art & Auction
“Sebastian Errazuriz was for many the designer of design Miami 2010”
“The Boy Genius of Design”
-El Sabado Magazine
“The inimitable Sebastian Errazuriz”
“Truly exceptional work. This is an artist I would buy if I could”
PRACTICA / TRAINEE.
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