Fancy some beautifully-translucent coloured building blocks filled with tiny baby sculptures? How about a large glass turnip? The goodies at this week’s SOFA Chicago—a celebration of functional art and design—are playful, luxurious and wholly unexpected.


SOFA Chicago (The Sculpture Objects Functional Art and Design Fair) opens on Thursday in the American city. Expect the “functional” here to be taken with a pinch of salt—while many of the items allude to household use they are as far removed from drab domesticity as is possible, with gilded surfaces, luscious colours and highly original use of materials. The fair has run annually since 1994, and has a focus on three-dimensional objects which sit on the borders between fine art, decorative art and design—and there is a strong element of humour.

Look no further than Yeon Jung‘s Breast Teapot for a tongue-in-check example of wit and fine design coming together. The teapot is shiny in the extreme, and covered in silvery studs which are reminiscent of nipples. Lee Yun Hee‘s Shy Afternoon is also wonderfully OTT, a golden tower of ceramic forms, at the base of which sits a giant teddy’s head.

There is an overriding sense of fun in design, where technical prowess comes together with playfulness and provocation, truly blurring the boundaries between functionality and for-the-hell-of-it exuberance—and questioning whether the two really should be mutually exclusive.


SOFA Chicago

From 1 to 4 November at Navy Pier, Chicago

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