Maarten Baas is widely regarded as one of the most influential designers working in object and furniture design today. His unique and limited-edition furniture is often characterised as functional imperfection. The irregularity and deformity of Baas’s furniture and objects speaks of the cultural changes in consumption since the turn of the twentieth century. Embracing a handmade aesthetic the designer’s work questions the hegemony of the machine-made, mass-produced object.
Born in Arnsberg, Germany, in 1978, Maarten Baas grew up in the Netherlands and graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven in 2002. An interdisciplinary institute for art, architecture and design founded in 1947, the academy’s profile soared in the 1990s due to its ties with the conceptual Dutch design company Droog. Co-founded by academy staff member and designer Gijs Bakker, Droog recruited alumni to produce overtly creative and experimental furniture and product design. Bass’s own unconventional designs fall into the aesthetic common pioneered by Droog and that we now identify with contemporary Dutch design. Smoke, Baas’s graduate project from 2002, featured replicas of iconic chairs and tables that he had set on fire and coated in epoxy resin to preserve the charred remains. Moving beyond the functional requirements of the object, Bass’s Smoke series elevates design as a form of expression and communication.
Fascinated with the concept of time since attending the Design Academy Eindhoven, Baas has created several experimental and limited-edition timepieces that explore the depiction of time. Launched in 2009 at Salone del Mobile in Milan, Baas’s Real Time series of twelve-hour long films combine performance with analogue and digital symbols of time keeping. In his work Sweepers, 2009, two men dressed in boiler suits sweep wood chips and rubbish around a concrete yard to mimic the real time movement of hands around a clock face. In the companion work Analogue clock the red digits on a digital clock are painted out, only to reappear on the minute. In 2010 Analogue clock was formatted as an iPhone app and made available for purchase at ninety-nine cents.
Expanding upon the theme, Baas’s Grandfather clock of 2013, in weathering steel, draws inspiration from an eighteenth-century grandfather clock. Standing more than two metres tall the clock is fabricated in Baas’s signature aesthetic. The clock face is an LCD screen displaying a twelve-hour long video of a grandfather figure, who appears to be drawing the arms of the clock and rubbing them out again, every minute from within. Baas staged the performance and filmed the actor in his studio over several sessions.
Grandfather clock is one half of a pair, along with Grandmother clock, produced in a limited edition of eight. Since 2005 Baas has collaborated with Dutch furniture designer and maker Bas den Herder, who has managed the development and production of all Baas’s furniture and object design. Den Herder Production House in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands specialises in handmade, small batch production and editions for the design-art market. London-based design gallery Carpenters Workshop commissioned Baas to produce Grandfather clock, exhibiting the work at Design Miami/Basel in 2013.
Simone LeAmon, The Hugh Williamson Curator, National Gallery of Victoria (in 2016)