Roman and Williams open a gallery in New York dedicated to crafts

New York’s Roman & Williams Show Celebrates Makers

Design studio Roman & Williams unveils New York’s Guild Gallery, an exhibition space spotlighting emerging makers and artists, and opens with work by London-based potter Akiko Hirai (until December 23, 2021)

The confluence of forces behind the opening of Guild Gallery in New York, the latest project from local design studio Roman & Williams. Located along lively Canal Street, Guild Gallery is a beacon for contemplation dedicated to displaying the applied arts.

A celebration of individual makers and artists, many of whom have never had solo exhibitions before, the gallery opens with a year-long roster of 12 practitioners from around the world – each representing a real force in their chosen medium, whether it’s CeramicOr glass or wood. First up is a gallery of ships from London based ceramic artist Akiko Hirai (until December 23, 2021), with future programs slated to include urushi paint pieces by Japanese artist Kenta Anzai, and stone sculptures by Dutch artist Myriam de Nijs.

Roman & Williams founders, Robin Standfer and Stephen Alish, are no strangers to this part of Manhattan. Leading retail operation, Roman and Williams Syndicate, which royally occupies the corner of Mercer and Canal Streets, just a few doors away from the new Guild Gallery, has brought a flood of affluent visitors to this cultural crossroads since it opened in 2017. Tableware and accessories, Guild heralded the return of Canal Street as a center for art, design and creativity. — and it’s a reputation that continues to bolster, despite the impact of the global pandemic.

Guild Gallery by Roman and Williams celebrates makers and artists

Akiko Hirai, “Container and Content”, view of the gallery, at Guild Gallery, New York

The idea for a taller stand began for Standefer and Alesch after the company was commissioned to reimagine the permanent British exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The six-year mission culminated in the unveiling and opening of the new 11,000-square-foot space in early 2020 — just seven days before New York City shuts down. The period of imposed isolation that followed gave Standefer and Alesch time to allow their personal pursuits and conversations with artists and makers in their orbit.

“Steven and I have dedicated so much effort to makers all over the world and that conversation became even more present when we were working on The Met,” Standefer says. In the midst of trying to survive [during the pandemic]We are beginning to see a shift in cultural dialogue and a revival of ceramic crafts as an applied art, says Standever. “Ceramic Celebrated, but [mostly] in a contextual environment. In a guild, people can experience these things in the context of their home and life and how they are used. From there, dozens of artists began to emerge, whom I saw were already on the right track, with credibility, goals, and aspirations that were greater on a physical level. They’ve got training and focus that requires us to start highlighting them for their shape.

Canal Street Facade

She continues, “If you look at the basic practice of Roman and Williams, we were kind of extreme, always creating context, relationships, interactions between objects. We saw those 12 people and said we need to think about isolating them. The practices of these artists demand focused and increased attention. I say this because it all happened very naturally. We wanted to celebrate them in a more thoughtful and focused way. We wanted to celebrate handicrafts.

Akiko Hirai’s first exhibition entitled “Container and Content”. Widely varied in size and elusive classification with their own surface texture, Hirai’s poppy shapes and irregular moon shapes are intentionally mysterious, some looking half-formed and others on the verge of bursting into life. Displayed on specially designed oak plinths, accompanied by matching benches and translucent screens to allow visitors for moments of self-reflection, the intricate and monumental aspects of Hirai practice are clearly visible.

Akiko Hirai, “Container and Content”, view of the gallery, at Guild Gallery, New York

Rarely do exhibitions create contemplation and excursion. The rant is about not giving up everything right away. The gallery is modest, not that big, but we wanted to create some sense of flight,” says Standifer. “Everything is made of oak monochromatic material, with a slight expression of hand in the details and woodwork joinery. These are all things you get to know when you look at surface and texture.

She concludes, “I see Ceramic As an incredible, semi-semiotic investigation into human history. It’s ancient, it’s universal, it’s part of every culture. It is part of our basic nature. I think in the pandemic, people are starting to look at nature and learn about the Earth we live on. §

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