Ron Arad, the Israeli-born designer known for his brash visual statements, is standing back and letting others do the talking: He has put up a see-through curtain in London for artists to beam videos on.
Arad’s silicon curtain lines the circular interior of the Roundhouse performance hall in north London (through Aug. 29). Visitors walk through it to watch flowers bloom and rot (by Mat Collishaw), hands play a wraparound keyboard (Christian Marclay) and models travel down a catwalk (Hussein Chalayan).
As “Curtain Call” opens, the tongue-in-cheek 60-year-old, wearing his signature funny hat, pauses to discuss the curtain, the collapsing markets, and the hat.
Nayeri: You’ve chosen not to put a piece of your own in here. We’re seeing through Ron Arad.
Arad: That’s one way of looking at it, which is a good way. The other way is, the Roundhouse is a container for all the activities, and this is a container within the container. It’s just like a little Roundhouse within the big Roundhouse.
Nayeri: Did you have a say in choosing the artists?
Arad: It’s my wish list. Every time I invited someone, I imagined what they might do if they were asked to do something. Without fail, they failed me. Everyone did something completely different, better than what I imagined.
Nayeri: What else are you exercised about now?
Arad: We’re doing a building for a hotel in Shoreditch, on Willow Street, London. It doesn’t have a name yet.
In the first week of September, I’m going to Seoul. There’s an installation of a huge public sculpture. It’s a very complicated piece to produce. We sent them all the data and everything, and they didn’t bother me once with technical questions. When I get the pictures now, it’s amazing.
We’re starting a huge sculpture in Budapest. We’re doing a new collection of eyewear, a brand called PQ that we’re working hard to launch at the end of September.
Nayeri: Design prices have slid just as art prices have.
Arad: Well, the whole world’s about to tumble, I don’t know if you’ve noticed.
Nayeri: Exactly. How do you feel about your market prices?
Arad: The market thing, it’s a necessary evil. It’s not what motivates us. It’s not why we do things.
We are supported by the world. It might change tomorrow, because there are more important things than art happening in the world.
Nayeri: That’s what pays the bills.
Arad: If you do something no one wants, then you’re in trouble. We have absolutely no reason to complain.
Nayeri: Do you feel your work is breaking out of the confines of design?
Arad: I don’t like the whole debate about breaking. I never took any notice of this. If you really want to know, my first breaking of boundaries was from art to design, not the other way around. When I did my first piece of design, the Rover chair, I was making a readymade in the tradition of Picasso’s “Taureau” and Duchamp’s urinal. But then the world sucked it one way, and so be my guest. That’s what I say.
Nayeri: Your hat is a summer version of the hat I’ve seen you wear before.
Arad: You’re very observant. You should be a journalist.
“Ron Arad’s Curtain Call,” sponsored by Bloomberg News’s parent Bloomberg LP, ends Aug. 29 at the Roundhouse, Chalk Farm Road, London NW1 8EH. Information: http://www.roundhouse.org.uk or +44-844-482-8008.
(Farah Nayeri writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own. This interview was adapted from a longer conversation.)