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100 Artists Redesigned The Modern Office’s Most Obsolete Object

The humble paperweight died decades ago. Now, it’s enjoying an unexpected second life—as an art object.

We’ve bid farewell to typewriters, rotary phones, and Rolodexes as casualties of the digital era. And while most offices still need paper, paperweights are about as useful today as a slide rule.

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But this relic from the desks of decades past intrigued the gallerists Zoe Fisher and Patrick Parrish. The two commissioned 100 contemporary artists and designers to create paperweights for the inaugural exhibition at Fisher Parrish, their new Bushwick gallery.

Sebastian Marbacher [Photo: courtesy Fisher Parrish Gallery]
“It was about exploring an ‘obsolete’ form to arrive at objects that function as small-scale sculptures,” Fisher says of The Paperweight Show, which is open until June 4. “Sure they can weigh down a stack of papers, but they also look great just sitting there as a piece of art.”

The designers–which include Chad Phillips, Anton Alvarez, and Chen & Kai–had five months to create their pieces. The only constraint? Objects should be no larger than a six-inch cube (a rule that some designers disregarded anyway). Fisher Parrish describes the open brief as “pushing your own disciplinary boundaries and allowing for a deeper understanding of the object.”

Matthew Ronay [Photo: courtesy Fisher Parrish Gallery]
Each paperweight serves as a mini creative manifesto about the designer who made it, but there are few commonalities among them. Some are exercises in minimalist restraint; others take a maximalist approach. Many are deliberately ugly–a design trend that’s both intriguing and perplexing at once. Quite a few look like dicks.

Together, they’re a cross section of independent design today.

Visibility [Photo: courtesy Fisher Parrish Gallery]
Mimi Jung, a fiber artist, created a cast-metal piece that looks like a textile weave. Visibility, an industrial design studio, riffed on the water weights they spotted on a recent trip to Japan, multipurpose objects that are used as door stops and sign weights. The surrealist artist Matthew Ronay created a carved and dyed wood piece that’s emblematic of his larger sculptures. Matthew Palladino used a 3D printer to produce a curio-sized version of his paintings, which are often three- to five-feet tall. “The materials and forms are all incredibly unique, which is what makes this show so amazing,” Fisher says.

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Each of the 100 paperweights are for sale, and range in price from $50 to $6,000. Spy a selection in the slide show above, and visit fisherparrish.com for more.

About the author

Diana Budds is a New York–based writer covering design and the built environment.

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