RISD Makes a Splash at Milan Design Week 2024

visitors check out RISD's booth at Salone del Mobile 2024

“I’m not the same designer I was before Milan Design Week,” says grad student Kipper Thomas Reinsmith MID 24. “My worldview is different now because of this opportunity, and I know I’m not the only student in our group who feels that way.”

Reinsmith is talking about his introduction to the international design stage in late April as an exhibitor at industry furniture and design fair Salone del Mobile, where he joined a multidisciplinary cadre of RISD students and faculty members to present Objects May Shift. The student-designed exhibition was a cross-pollination of ideas, materials and scales that investigated our relationship to the domestic interior. RISD’s first such expansive effort in Milan, Objects May Shift was developed, refined and mounted via two studios led by Textiles Professor Anais Missakian 84 TX and Associate Professor of Furniture Design Pete Oyler MFA 09 FD: a Wintersession course called Topics in Exhibition and a spring studio still in progress.  

Oyler describes the overall experience as “a really successful proof of concept” and adds, “I believe that showing up as an institution in this way and focusing on the synergies between disciplines is important to RISD’s relevance in the art and design world.”

“The work was rich in materiality and color, and its visceral quality drew people in.”

Professor Anais Missakian
Yukti Agarwal and Kip Reinsmith discuss their work with a booth visitor
Collaborators Yukti Agarwal and Kipper Reinsmith discuss their work with a booth visitor.

Other art and design schools also showed work at the fair, but the conceptual making on display in RISD’s booth attracted a lot of attention from press and industry alike. “The work was rich in materiality and color,” Missakian explains, “and its visceral quality drew people in. It was also presented in a really tight way, and that came directly from the students. Pete and I allowed their ideas to be front and center right from the start.”

Students took turns staffing the booth throughout the six-day exhibition and used a variety of performance pieces to draw attention to the work. “The booth looked different than planned,” says Textiles major and Brown|RISD Dual Degree student Yukti V. Agarwal BRDD 24 TX. “The install team did a great job of thinking on their feet and making necessary last-minute changes. People were so interested in what we were providing.”

One of the eye-catching booth elements was The Great Chain of Being by Furniture Design major Jonathan Dinetz 24 FD, “a mechanical assurance of the birth, life and ultimate dissolution of our bodies and consciousness.” As Agarwal explains, “Jonathan’s machine had this nice acoustic quality. People would stop and say ‘where is that sound coming from?’ It really helped us get a buzz going.”

A metal and wire contraption created for the show by Jonathan Dinetz
Professor Anais Missakian speaks at Salone del Mobile 2024
Above, The Great Chain of Being by senior Jonathan Dinetz was a crowd pleaser at the show (photo by Erik Gould); below, Professor Anais Missakian joined a panel discussion hosted by IKEA and Fast Company

Another attention getter was The Knit Wiggle, a modular inflatable featuring knitted upholstery that Agarwal and Reinsmith collaborated on. Both designers describe the opportunity to work together and spend the time necessary to refine their concept as invaluable. “We can be so rooted in our disciplinary studies at RISD,” says Agarwal. “If it weren’t for Kip, I think I would have graduated without ever seeing my textiles in 3D! Pete and Anais really pushed all of us to develop our work, and it was a great way to end our time at RISD.”

While she was on site, Missakian joined Samsung Executive Vice President of Design Federico Casalegno and design entrepreneur Yves Béhar for a panel discussion led by Mark Wilson, global design editor of Fast Company, called How Design Will Heal Us. RISD’s presence could be felt in other Milan Design Week venues as well, including Animism at Alcova Milano, which included work by alums Jeremy Silberberg 12 FAV and Erica Sellers 12 ID; (re)Material Culture at Rossana Orlandi, featuring textiles by alum Liz Collins 91 TX/MFA 99 TX; and Brussels Design Beyond Borders at Brussels House Milano, showcasing work by alum Ariane van Dievoet MDes 13 (Studio Avandi).

For a list of RISD alums and faculty members participating in Milan Design Week and the Venice Biennale, visit alumni.risd.edu.

Simone Solondz
May 2, 2024

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