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A cafe installation built at Christies, London

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Milk is the result of a collaboration between artist Jonathan Trayte and fashion designer Kit Neale. The work formed part of Fashion Art Commissions, a project that sees the BFC Fashion Arts Foundation and the Royal Academy Schools pair fashion designers and recent graduates together in an effort to foster collaborations across art forms. The intention of the project was to develop commissions that would form part of an auction at Christies raising funds for the continuation of the work of the BFC Fashion Arts Foundation and their cross disciplinary projects. Trayte and Neale were one of four pairs of artists/designers that included; Agi & Sam and Joe Frazer; Alex Mullins and Amy Petra Woodward and Diego Vanassibara and Victoria Adam. 

Trayte and Neale were united by their interest in consumer culture, deciding to create a social café space where a wide public would be able to experience the efforts of their collaboration. Combining Jonathan’s knowledge of sculptural materials and Kit’s unique take on design the resulting café, sponsored by Lavazza, was an installation of sculptural tables, soft coloured pink walls and theatrical plants. Each table incorporated different types of stone, using found and donated offcuts of granite, marble and welsh slate in a series of inlays that functioned akin to graphic drawings across the table tops. The material combinations between paint, stone and wood produced a functional interior that echoed with the playfulness of Neale’s fashion prints and Trayte’s prior sculptural projects. For a period of two weeks the café was open to the public. In a supportive move, Christies agreed to close their normal café and seconded staff to Milk. Dressed in uniforms of two tone shirts with accents of baby pink sheepskin and silver collars, the public were served a range of Italian coffee. The project presented a series of questions around a need for functionality when considering the design of social and commercial spaces and the potential of the art object beyond that of gallery display.  

Every item of furniture within the space was available to purchase at the final project auction, enabling multiple collectors to own an aspect of the duo’s endeavour and bringing the functioning café into the domain of the art market. Creating the tables was a further nod to Trayte’s interest in developing works that have social interaction at their core. The table, after all is a space upon which food is shared, conversations are had, and relationships are formed. Considering both the social and practical function of the table designs has influenced Trayte’s current practice, exploring the potential for sculpture to be both an embodiment of functional requirements, a desirable aesthetic object and a means of playful critique – a series of concerns that can be further seen in the work of Neale and his approach to pattern.   

Trayte and Neale remain in close contact following their collaboration and Trayte’s work is increasingly being shown and developed in a number of different contexts –  from his recent show at the artist led Castor Projects gallery in Deptford to his forthcoming exhibition at the contemporary design focused Friedman Benda gallery in New York and a summer residency on Jersey exploring the food networks of the island. Trayte’s ability to exhibit and respond to a range of diverse contexts echoes the influences around his practice which include supermarket environments, food packaging and life style trends, as well as the enduring appeal of his playful and uncertain sculptural forms.

All images courtesy of Kit Neale and Jonathan Tratye, 2017. Photographs by Andy Kate.

Kit Neale and Jonathan Trayte

Kit Neale earned international critical and commercial success through the launch of his namesake brand in 2012 and has since gone on to craft a career working with several major global brands. Neale has collaborated and consulted on numerous special projects including a global soft furnishings range for IKEA and projects with Coca-Cola, Hallmark, Kew Gardens, Lavazza, Opening Ceremony and Sky.  

Jonathan Trayte is a sculptor. His work explores our complex relationship with food, from the production industry and global supply chains that engineer and design the products we consume, to its emotional and social role in today’s food obsessed society. Using bare concrete or lurid painted bronze, Trayte’s installations echo familiar sites of consumption, from haphazard market-stalls to carefully orchestrated supermarket displays and elaborate dinner tables. Trayte has engaged with academic research, most recently collaborating with Professor Charles Spence at the experimental psychology laboratory at Oxford University, to gain an insight in how consumer decision-making is manipulated in commercial environments using various means, materials, lighting and temperatures.