Black2 – An exhibition concept by Konstantin Grcic


December 12, 2010 – February 12, 2011
Opening: Saturday, December 11, 2010, 6.30 p.m.
Istituto Svizzero di Roma Sala Elvetica
Via Liguria 20 – Rome

“Black2 (Black and Square)” is the exhibition conceived by Konstantin Grcic for the Istituto Svizzero di Roma, that analyzes the presence of the black square shape in the production of the contemporary object.
Through a selection of fifty products that are more or less well-known (or at times popular even), Grcic combines non-homogeneous objects within a homogeneous formal and linguistic category.

With its rich symbolic values, the black and square shape has passed through the millenary history of cultures: from the Egyptian stelae to the Tablets of Law engraved by Moses; from certain Chinese ceramic traditions to the Islamic Kaaba, up to the alchemy and philosopher’s stone which, as tradition would have it, was the shape of a black cube.
But it is starting from the Twentieth century, with the modern age, that the black and square shape has been given prominence and such widespread diffusion thus becoming a formal trend.

Art of the Twentieth century is irremediably marked by Black square against white background (1913) by Kasimir Malevich, the first attempt to give a modern form to the “I”, to the “pure feeling” to use the words from the artist’s Manifesto.
The era that tried to make dreams rational too is marked by this black and square attribute, that does not exist in nature, being artificial, autonomous. From the psychological theories to the mathematical ones of the Black Box, “black and square” refers to a mysterious model whose internal mechanism is unknown, and is therefore knowable only through the reactions it produces if subjected to a certain external impulse. It is perhaps with reference to these peculiarities that, in the production of technological objects, “black and square” are inevitable and recurrent attributes.
Some emblematic examples are part of the exhibition: the Apple iPhone and iPad chip, the IBM ThinkPad, the Marshall amplifier and the BASF audio-cassette tape. And it is precisely the BASF audiocassette tape that has a founding historical value as it was the first object without precedents produced in plastic by modern industry. To make it marketable, significantly the designers chose a black and square shape.
In other instances it is a matter of more complex design choices, applied to traditional objects such as a cooking box (it is the case of La Cubica by Aldo Rossi from 1991) or a trolley-container (the Boby by Joe Colombo from 1970), or a chair – exhibited is the Vitra03 by Maarten Van Severen – or the very Diana B Table by Grcic himself (2002) and the TV Black ST 201 by Sapper and Zanuso (1969).
Even in fashion too, “black and square” has had a more and more noteworthy diffusion (exhibited are the Comme des Garçons classic men’s wallet, Timeless 2.55 hand bag by Chanel, Patagonia men’s down sweater vest, an Armani perfume amongst others), to the point that often it has represented a trend, a concept of elegance, but without however losing its radical features and perhaps mystery.

With “Black2” Grcic pursues theoretic reflections and the proposals for interpretation on the topic of the contemporary object at a time when experimentation is in need of new orientation capacities. The exhibition does not establish a method, but takes cognizance of the “horizontal” diffusion of a formal element, that goes from a volume of the Bible to a petrol tank, from technology to electronics, from a diamond to fashion, to the great authors of the Twentieth century.
What is important in this exhibition is not the designer’s signature, but it is to verify the richness of this linguistic attribute and the certainty that in each of the cases exhibited, and of the hundreds of black and square objects that we are surrounded by, it is about an action that calls into play the heart of the very idea of creation, the deliberated choice of a man in a precise production and social context, that is the contemporary era.
The exhibition set-up was deliberately envisaged so as to keep a distance from a vision as a whole or from too often hoped for unitary thesis, but leaves space to single autonomous stories of the objects, to their complexity and, possibly, to the meanings that the couple black-square has become enriched with, entrusted to the choice of the designer.

Konstantin Grcic was born in 1965 in Munich, where he lives and works. He studied industrial design at the Royal College of Art in London. In 1991 he set up his studio Konstantin Grcic Industrial Design (KGID), specialized in the creation of industrial objects, furnishing, interior design and exhibitions.
Gricic unites the formal essentiality of his objects with a research on materials and the history of design and architecture.
He works with some of the most famous design companies such as Magis, Flos, Cassina and Moroso. He is winner of the Designer of the Year Award 2010 and Design Miami/ has just dedicated an exhibition to the designer that presents the fundamental stages of his career.
Amongst other prestigious awards he has received the Wallpaper Design Award (2010), the Silver Delta Award (2009) and the Honorary Royal Designer for Industry (HonRDI) from the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, Commerce (RSA). In 2001 he won the Compasso d’Oro for his lamp May Day for Flos. In 2010 he was in residency at the German Academy in Villa Massimo in Rome.
This year, St. Etienne International Design Biennale commissioned an exhibition from him on the theme of comfort. In 2009 for the Serpentine Gallery in London he created “Design Real”, a project that included an exhibition, a book and a website ( Some of his objects are part of permanent collections of museums such as the lamp May Day, the 360° Chair and360° Stool, and the Miura Stackable Stools at the MoMA in New York, or the Scolaro at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.


Chip A4
Chip for iPad and iPhone Year: 2010
Produced by: Apple, USA
Media: Graphene (pure carbon)
Dimensions: 0,7 x 0,7 x 0,2 cm; 16 / 32 / 64 GB


Switch Designer: Gira design team
Year: 1998 Produced by: GIRA, Germany
Media: Termoplast
Dimensions: 15 x 8 x 0,9 cm


Chair Designer: Maarten van Severen
Year: 1999 Produced by: Vitra, Switzerland
Media: Polyurethane, steel
Dimensions: 79 x 43,5 cm


Lego Brick
Brick Designer: Ole Kirk Christiansen
Year: 1949 Produced by: LEGO, Denmark
Media: Plastic
Dimensions: 1 x 1,5 x 3 cm


Down Sweater Vest
Men’s Sweater Designer: Eric Rice
Year: 2010 Produced by: Patagonia, France
Media: Goose down, recycled polyester
Dimensions: 71 x 55 x 1 cm, size M; Men’s: 266 g / Women’s 232 g


Playstation2 Slim
Console Produced by: Sony, Japan
Media: Plastic, metal
Dimensions: 2,8 x 23 x 15,2 cm


Digital watch Year: 1990
Produced by: Casio LTD, Japan
Media: Resin
Dimensions: 22,5 x 3,6 x 0,8 cm


Amplificatore Produced by: Marshall, UK
Media: Plastic, metal
Dimensions: 48, 5 x 59 x 25,4 cm; 20,3 kg


Leica M7 10 504
Analog camera Year: 2002
Produced by: Leica, Germany
Media: Brass, magnesium alloy, aluminum, steel, glass.
Dimensions: 8 x 13,8 x 3,8 cm; 610 g


Black diamond
Media: Polycrystalline diamond
Dimensions: 2 x 1,5 cm