The Guilded Age

Q&A | Jul 2017 | BY Tali Jaffe

Ahead of the opening of Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town this fall, The Guild Group, founded by Trevyn and Julian McGowan, opened the doors to their latest cultural contribution to the contemporary South African landscape: GUILD. The design destination—including gallery, retail concept and showroom—brings together the many facets of art and design that the pioneering McGowans have championed locally and abroad. Here, Trevyn takes us into the GUILD world.

As a bellwether for South African design, GUILD has introduced the international design world to some of the country’s most talented artists and designers. Who among the many you’ve worked with stand out as having the greatest rise in their career?

Andile Dyalvane, an incredible artist working in ceramic and exploring themes and rituals from his cultural heritage (Andile is also represented by Friedman Benda where his two-month solo show was held last summer). Porky Hefer, who we selected to represent South Africa in the inaugural Design Biennale in London in 2016, created a media frenzy with his solo at R & Company in January this year and will be presented in a grands cale solo in the atrium of the Trumpet building, where our Southern Guild Johannesburg gallery is housed, over the Joburg Art Fair in Sept. Porky has articulated a unique vernacular in the global design landscape, redefining the experience of interacting with a piece of design. While Justine Mahoney, (her bronze sculptural figures reflect on deeply personal issues, global narratives set against the politics of 70’s and 80’s Johannesburg), who had a sell-out first solo in our previous Cape Town gallery, before the show had even opened, is being collected by top curators and collectors around the world. Her third–series solo will premiere in New York next year.

Lionel Smit and Wiid Design’s Lineage cabinet

Will GUILD have any special events, exhibitions, etc to coincide with ZEITZ opening in September?

We’re extending the gallery to open Andile Dyalvane’s first solo in South Africa. Stellar was conceived as an important exhibition for the international and local audience at this time as it features work by the stars of African design – Porky Hefer, Justine Mahoney, Gregor Jenkins, Cheick Diallo, Jon Vogel and more – so it will continue. We’ll also launch a WallpaperSTORE* pop-up in GUILD.

With a veritable Guild Universe open now in the Silo District, is there one arm of the company that you’re especially excited about?

Having the three tiers—Southern Guild, GUILD Studio and GUILD Store—together in one space is fantastic. It’s a real design experience and an African design snapshot; the space is a positive experience for both the initiate and the collector. Southern Guild has made great headway in the collectible category in nine years and now GUILD Store and GUILD Studio allow us to develop design at different levels.

GUILD Store, for example, allows a youngster who has climbed into a Porky nest to purchase his take on the I Love Cape Town t-shirt or a product from the GUILD designer collab range at a much lower price point. GUILD Studio makes a range of African designed furniture available as an antidote to the identikit variety. This nurtures growth in the category in Africa and introduces design to a wider audience—there’s a line of progression and the possibility for designers to work at different levels. Store gives emerging designers a platform to flex and try new materials and processes while Studio means the big guns can do more affordable work. The category needs a discerning and design proud public to thrive and I think that GUILD, by placing African design firmly in the global frame educates and creates excitement about the category.

GUILD store

Who are some of the designers creating work for the studio range?

Laurie Wiid and Ceramic Matters, Paco Rugs, Frank Böhm, Friday Jibu, Oster Wald & Sons, Melvyn Gers, Charles Haupt. Julian is designing the in-house range.

Are there any stateside GUILD trips we should keep on our radar?

Nothing could be better than finishing our year at Design Miami and having started exhibiting in 2011, it will be our fifth time this year. We are also exploring exhibiting in the early part of the year on the West Coast…

Will we seeing any of the new GUILD ventures at any of the fairs that Southern Guild takes part in? 

An exclusive selection of the GUILD product will be on the WallpaperSTORE* site as part of our collaboration and we will take part in Collect in London next February so potentially there. We have a pool of emerging talent developing work outside of their usual realm for GUILD Store. That sort of opportunity and experimentation is bound to produce something that’ll leap into the collectible category and become a part of the Southern Guild stable.

Photos by Adriaan Louw

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