16:47 PM

Stephen Burks: Shelter in Place

Museum announces Stephen Burks as the 2023 Design Excellence Award Honoree 

November 19, 2023 - April 14, 2024

Philadelphia, Oct 31, 2023 – The Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) today announced that on November 18, 2023, Stephen Burks, an internationally renowned industrial designer, will be honored with Collab’s 2023 Design Excellence Award during a celebration at the museum. Collab, the PMA’s affiliate group for modern and contemporary design, presents this annual award, now in its 37th year, to design icons in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the field of design. In conjunction with the award, the PMA will showcase Burks’s work in the new exhibition, Stephen Burks: Shelter in Place, which surveys the past ten years of his craft-centered, workshop-based design practice and features a specially commissioned speculative project. The exhibition will be on display at the PMA in the Collab Gallery from November 19, 2023 through April 14, 2024.

For nearly twenty years, Stephen Burks has forged a unique path by finding opportunities for innovation in the space between handcraft and industry, which has become a hallmark of his practice. Burks and his studio Stephen Burks Man Made have been commissioned by many of the world’s leading design-driven brands, including Cappellini, DEDON, Missoni, and Roche Bobois, among others, to develop collections that creatively synthesize handcraft traditions with industrial production. Burks has stated, “Hands have power... Even today, the hand is capable of doing things that machines cannot.” His collaborations with artisans and craftspeople all over the globe, from Senegal and South Africa to Peru and the Philippines, demonstrate the creative impact that the hand can have on industrial products. Guiding Burks’s approach is his underlying belief that design should be inclusive of all cultural perspectives and backgrounds.

The exhibition, Stephen Burks: Shelter in Place, explores new ideas concerning domesticity—namely asking how we can design our interiors to enable joyful living while empowering our creativity. It features nearly 45 key objects from the last ten years of Burks’s practice, as a type of mid-career survey, that exemplifies his aim of “returning the hand to industry.” The furniture, lighting, textiles, and craft-related experiments on view highlight his innovative craft collaborations and demonstrate his holistic approach across the disciplines of art, architecture, and design that underscores principles of synthesizing craft, community, and industry. A highlight is Burks’s Traveler Armchair with Hood (Designed 2014), which was manufactured by Paris-based firm Roche Bobois, with whom Burks is a frequent collaborator. The Traveler, which was inspired by the dense forests photographed by Thomas Struth in his Paradise series from the late 1990s, was the first work by Roche Bobois to enter a museum collection when the PMA acquired it in 2016.

The works from Burks’s professional practice are presented in the gallery alongside five prototypes from his new speculative project—Shelter in Place—which explores radical new ideas regarding design's relationship to our spirituality, our homes, and our communities, post-pandemic. The Shelter in Place commission emerged from discussions between Burks and the High Museum of Art’s Curator of Decorative Arts and Design and exhibition organizer, Monica Obniski, that began during the COVID-19 pandemic. The project allowed Burks to imagine multiple radical concepts for the home, including Spirit House, which functions as a modern portable altar and reflects Burks’s ongoing interest in design’s ability to connect us to our need for spirituality and ritual.

Eileen Tognini, Collab Board Member, commented, “We are thrilled to celebrate Stephen as this year’s Design Excellence Award honoree. His ability to combine craft with industrial production, while embracing cultural diversity around the globe is truly special and deserves much praise. He continues to think holistically about design and recognizes the enormous power of design to improve our everyday lives and our society more broadly in this current post-pandemic moment.”

Sasha Suda, George D. Widener Director and CEO at the Philadelphia Museum of Art said, “The PMA is committed to championing a broader and inclusive curatorial direction, one that involves taking a more thoughtful approach to the collections in which we choose to invest and display. Stephen’s conviction that design is cultural production and that it has the opportunity to represent everyone’s approach to life is truly inspiring. The PMA is honored to host this important exhibition and we look forward to welcoming visitors to start their own conversations about their relationship with design and home.”

Stephen Burks: Shelter in Place is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, published by the High Museum of Art and Yale University Press, featuring essays by High Museum of Art curator Monica Obniski, author and historian Glenn Adamson, curator and critic Beatrice Galilee, and an introduction by Spanish architect and designer Patricia Urquiola, who was honored with the Collab Design Excellence Award in 2017. Additional texts include an interview with Burks by Michelle Joan Wilkinson, curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, and a conversation between Burks and the late bell hooks.

Collab Design Excellence Award
The Collab Design Excellence Award presentation ceremony and opening celebration for the exhibition will take place on Saturday, November 18, 2023. Stephen Burks will discuss his work at the event in conversation with Alisa Chiles, Assistant Curator of European Decorative Arts and Sculpture, who curated the exhibition in Philadelphia. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit @collabpma. The 2023 Collab Design Excellence Award is sponsored by Amuneal and Poor Richard’s Charitable Trust, Roche Bobois, DEDON, Eileen Tognini Design, Haworth, Marguerite Rodgers Interior Design, Millésimé, Minima, and Rago Wright Auctions.

Collab Student Design Competition
Stephen Burks: Shelter in Place is also the inspiration for Collab’s 2023 Student Design Competition, which is held annually and is now in its 30th year. Collab has invited university-level design students from around the country to submit their own designs for a unique vessel that incorporates both technology and “the hand,” inspired by Burks’s craft-based approach to industrial design. Design submissions received by November 8, 2023, will be evaluated according to their originality and creativity, evidence of applied research, and their ability to be manufactured. The winners, who receive cash prizes and recognition on the Philadelphia Museum of Art website, will be announced in a feedback session with the judges on November 15, 2023.

Public Programs
The Philadelphia Museum of Art will host a variety of public programs associated with the exhibition, including a panel discussion in February 2024 on diversity in the arts featuring Stephen Burks in conversation with several artists. More information to come. For additional programming, please see @collabpma

Stephen Burks: Shelter in Place is organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, in collaboration with the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The organizing curator is Monica Obniski, Curator of Decorative Arts and Design at the High Museum of Art. In Philadelphia, the exhibition is curated by Alisa Chiles, Assistant Curator of European Decorative Arts and Sculpture.

Stephen Burks: Shelter in Place is made possible by The Lisa S. Roberts and David W. Seltzer Endowment Fund in Support of the Collab Design Excellence Award Exhibition. Additional support is provided by Collab.

About Stephen Burks
A Chicago native, Stephen Burks (b. 1969) is one of the most recognized American industrial designers of his generation. He has worked as a product development consultant in close collaboration with artisans and craftspeople on six continents. Burks and his Brooklyn-based studio Stephen Burks Man Made have been commissioned by numerous global design-driven brands to develop collections that engage hand production as a strategy for innovation including Cappellini, Dedon, MASS Design Group, Missoni, & Roche Bobois. His work has been exhibited internationally, including the Studio Museum in Harlem and the High Museum of Art. Burks is the first African American to win the Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt National Design Award in Product Design and the first industrial designer to be awarded the prestigious Loeb Fellowship at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

About Collab
Founded in 1970, Collab is a Philadelphia Museum of Art member group that supports modern and contemporary design at the museum through acquisitions, exhibitions, and programs. Collab’s annual Design Excellence Award honors a designer of international renown with a celebration and exhibition at the PMA. This signature event has brought design icons to Philadelphia since 1986. To learn more, visit www.philamuseum.org/join/friends-groups/collab

About the Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is a national and international destination for art, but first, we are Philadelphia’s Museum of Art – for all the many diverse communities of the city. Through our collections, exhibitions, events, educational activities, celebrations and more, the PMA is a storyteller, and we welcome everyone to be part of the story -- our doors are wide open. To learn more, visit www.philamuseum.org.

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