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10th August 2016

Q&A: Max Fraser, 100% Norway Curator

Exactly six weeks and one day from now, London Design Guide editor and former deputy director of the London Design Festival, Max Fraser will showcase his latest curatorial offering to the design-loving crowds of London Design Fair.

Recognised for his pivotal roles within the the London design scene, Max’s debut appointment as 100% Norway curator is a fitting progression for both the seasoned design aficionado and the consistently dynamic celebration of Norwegian design talent.

Featuring 17 designers and design teams, comprising both established and up-and-coming creatives, Max’s cohort of exhibitors boasts a diverse portfolio of disciplines and backgrounds and is set to once again challenge antiquated perceptions of what Norwegian design is and its role in emerging design markets around the globe. 

We caught up with Max as he prepares for the show. 

How does it feel to be curating such as long-standing show? 
100% Norway has been exhibited in London for over a decade, which is testament to the strength of the Norwegian design scene. A great variety of design talent from the country has been shown in London and I’m pleased to be welcoming a new generation into the mix in 2016.

What is it that you find most interesting about the Norwegian design scene today?
I’ve been struck by the energy and enthusiasm of the designers I’ve met. The Norwegian design scene is small and, as such, has a tight community of like-minded individuals who collectively want to showcase their talent around the world. As such, the small country of Norway has developed a strong design reputation in the world which I’m fortunate enough to inherit.

How do you think the international perception of Norwegian design has changed in the last 13 years?
The presence of Norwegian design around the world has been consistently well-curated, tightly edited and generally commercial in its outlook. As such, I think the international perception is positive and one of professionalism.

This year’s exhibition centres on ‘Norwegian Design; Past, Present and Future’ but you could say that design everywhere is influenced by heritage – whether following it or reacting against it – what makes this year’s exhibition different?
Designers working in the countries with the greatest 20th Century design heritage tend to live somewhat in the shadows of their predecessors. Finally, these countries (including Norway) seem to be freeing themselves of the shackles of the past and pushing forward in new directions. They aren’t giant leaps but there is certainly an appetite to embrace new materials and typologies while remaining commercial and international in appeal. 

What feeling do you want to create in the exhibition space itself?
With 13 years of 100% Norway heritage behind me, I’m keen to inject a new energy and outlook that breaks from any preconceptions of what Norwegian design is, particularly in light of the Scandinavian stereotypes. I think the designers involved would be grateful for this.

What influenced your selection of designers for the 2016 show?
There are a number of factors I need to consider when making the selection: does it represent a balanced mix of Norwegian design output today? Are the products relevant and commercial in the UK market? Does the product have a place in our world today? Will the cynical London audience embrace it? Thankfully, I didn’t recognise many of the names of the applicants this year so I approached the curating with a clean agenda and, as such, we have a good mix of new talents with the more established from the main Norwegian cities.

What reaction do you hope this year’s exhibition elicits from visitors? What ideas do you want to convey? 
As the curator, I have a responsibility to portray Norwegian design in the best possible light, so I would hope that visitors leave with a positive impression of the country’s design scene today. But I don’t want people to just leave saying “oh that was nice”, I also want them to develop relationships with the designers on display and move forward with new partnerships so that the legacy of those four days continues into the future.

100% Norway will exhibit at London Design Fair 22 - 25 September. Follow 100% Norway on Twitter and Instagram for updates ahead of the show. 

Download the full press release here. 

Above 1: Domaas/Høgh Una, 2: Max Fraser, 3: Anderssen Voll Åkle for Røros Tweed, 4: Ann Kristin Einarsen Rolla, 5: Knudden Berg Hindenes Bow Stool, 6: Andreas Bergsaker Singularity Vase, 7: Osloform Stokkit, 8: Nils Henrik Stensrud Turntable. 

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