Ikea’s affordable, Swedish modern furniture is an omnipresent staple in homes around the world. But the company’s real gems are in its limited-time artist collaborations, which intentionally push the boundaries of Ikea products in just about every way.
It’s called the Ikea Art Event (pdf), and the latest release is a doozy. The collection stretches beyond the latest trends in maximalism to dip into challenging, absurd, even surreal pieces by artist Daniel Arsham, Tokyo-based creative group Gelchop, the German-Swedish duo Humans Since 1982, the object-driven Dutch designer Sabine Marcelis, and the German contemporary artist and illustrator Stefan Marx.
The headliner piece in the collection has to be, not one, but two different Allen wrench lights by Gelchop. With a similar self-effacing sensibility that we saw in this rug receipt that Virgil Abloh designed for Ikea, the Allen wrenches pay tribute to the oft-painful assembly process behind Ikea products. One is built to be flashlight sized ($25), while another is built to live as a table lamp ($45). Both are made of a mixture of aluminum and plastic, and each celebrates the unmistakable metallic sheen of an Allen wrench.
Not to be outdone, Daniel Arsham, who is known for his witty, if bleak, takes on pop culture, created a steel and glass wall clock straight out of a Dali painting. Its circular form is entirely typical, until you notice the sculptural, cloth-like frame surrounding the clock, frozen mid-ripple. I can’t help but see a very literal interpretation of the phrase “time flies.” It’s both beautiful and panic-inducing, an existential crisis you can buy for a mere $45.
Finally, in a turn to the dystopian, Humans Since 1982 created something akin to a taxidermy shadow box, like you’d see for collections of insects. But instead of bugs, the box contains tiny specimens of drones. Available in two sizes ($25/$50), I imagine them to be what Katniss Everdeen might have hanging on her walls in a modest one-bedroom apartment.
There’s even more to the collection—including a vase, wall hanging, and more lighting—and it will be worth watching whether some of the collection’s bold surrealism bleeds through to Ikea’s more general, buttoned up design sensibility. If you’d like to acquire any of these pieces for yourself, there’s just one catch. They launch in April, but Ikea generally only makes these limited releases available inside their brick and mortar locations rather than online.