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Past, Present & The Future Perfect with David Alhadeff

By Renée Soucy

A Conversation with the Iconoclast of Contemporary Design 

David Alhadeff is probably the only design world personality to be described as both the “Foremost Champion of American Design” and “fanboy and mentor” (and in the same The New York Times profile, no less). He is also the founder of The Future Perfect, one of the world’s most celebrated design galleries which exists as a trio of unique locations: a traditional gallery space in San Francisco and the gallery's residences in Manhattan’s West Village and Beverly Hills.

David Alhadeff at The Future Perfect in New York
David Alhadeff at The Future Perfect, New York. Photo: Douglas Friedman



Discover, Encourage, & Celebrate

Guided since 2003 by Alhadeff’s irrepressible enthusiasm and a unique, boundary-blurring approach which questions convention while inviting delight, The Future Perfect is synonymous with an always-fresh curatorial vision and enduring relationships with highly-collectible designers like Eric Roinestad, Chris Wolston, Lindsey Adelman, and many others. Within this fluid paradox, free from the constraints of outdated roles and definitions, Alhadeff continues to discover, encourage, and celebrate some of the world’s most influential artists, designers, and craftspeople. 

The Future Perfect, Los Angeles 2018
The Future Perfect, Los Angeles 2018. Photo: Yoshiro Makino




Design On Tap Sits Down With David Alhadeff 

We sat down with him to reminisce over the past two decades in design, how the industry has evolved, and to unpack his unique point of view on finding inspiration, curation, and where the design industry is heading.

The Future Perfect, New York
The Future Perfect, New York. Photo: Douglas Friedman


Design On Tap: Let’s take a look back to when we were both standing in your original Williamsburg, Brooklyn location, toasting its grand opening. This was 2003.  Back then, for a designer, artist, or gallerist to reach a certain level of success, they would need recognition from a rarified group of editors and arbiters who bequeathed their stamps of approval, usually in printed media like magazines or newspapers.  Let’s talk a little bit about how that’s changed over the years and how your role as a curator has evolved since those early days.

David Alhadeff: The gatekeeping has changed. It used to be that there were a select few that decided what you, the plebeians of the world, would see coming from fashion, art, design…from any of these cultural milieus and at any or every level, you know? Certainly that's gone away. Now I could have a TikTok account, take shirtless photos of myself, be a ceramicist, and probably have a better following than the MoMA! (laughs)

DoT: So what was it that inspired you to start The Future Perfect? Has the vision changed?


Black and white interior, The Future Perfect in San Francisco
The Future Perfect, San Francisco. Photo: Daniel Dent


DA: The principal concept of the company hasn’t changed—we’re still invested and dedicated to showing noteworthy collectable, emerging artists and designers and their work. From a curation perspective, in terms of our roster of talent, we’re more interested than ever in social equality and diversity—especially when working in a male-dominated industry. And of course, we continue to think globally, seeking the best artists and work from around the world.  

David Alhadeff at The Future Perfect, New York
David Alhadeff at The Future Perfect, New York. Photo: Douglas Friedman


DoT: How would you say The Future Perfect has evolved as a business? What has guided you in that realm?

DA: Our organizational values are basically… I think the word “experience” is a bit trite and overused, but our organizational values are basically the experience that we articulate through beauty and service. 

And it's like we do think about the confluence of service beyond just getting you to your order on time.  Like the service of opening your mind, expanding the boundaries, rethinking ideas. 

How we articulate that through space that's easy to understand, that's beautiful. Because if you present things to people in too much of a confrontational way, which is like 20 years ago when we started, I didn't know that what I was doing was so confrontational or so difficult to digest. 

Back then people would come in (to the original Williamsburg location) and say, “Oh my gosh, it's so interesting but… Uh… I only really want vintage” Basically they were saying “this isn't really for me,” because it was too overwhelming. Still, we did well!

We never didn't didn't do well, but over time we've learned how to speak to our clients and we've learned how to talk in their voice. Today it's like we’re using “spa voice” versus screaming. We're not screaming anymore but we're still saying things that are very disruptive. We’re still presenting new ideas. 

The Future Perfect, New York
The Future Perfect, New York. Photo: Sean Davidson


Momentary Pause at The Future Perfect Los Angeles, February 2022Momentary Pause at The Future Perfect Los Angeles, February 2022
Momentary Pause at The Future Perfect Los Angeles, February 2022. Photo: Elizabeth Carababas
Momentary Pause at The Future Perfect Los Angeles, February 2022. Photo: Elizabeth Carababas


DoT: So how does a curatorial vision emerge from this fast-moving paradigm?

DA: The idea is that we explore. We recently had a show called Momentary Pause (which coincided with Frieze LA) which was really about how the artists we work with celebrate details. And because details are such a large part of design, it's such an unconsidered part of design because really good design hides the details. 


The Future Perfect, Casa Perfect Los Angeles, 2018-2020
The Future Perfect, Casa Perfect Los Angeles, 2018-2020. Photo: Pia Riverola.


DoT: The Future Perfect exists as a triumvirate of gorgeous, full-scale residence/galleries in Manhattan, Pacific Heights and Beverly Hills. In fact the previous Casa Perfect location here in Los Angeles was a Rex Lotery designed space that Elvis Presley called home.  You also show at the Salon Fair of Art and Design in New York and at Design Miami. How do you take the feeling of the residences/galleries and translate that into a booth? What makes a space The Future Perfect?

DA: The answer is there's no difference (between large and small spaces), because in the residential spaces we're not trying to do the job of our clients, meaning the interior designers. We work with some of the best designers in the world and they don’t need our help. 

That said, I want there to be disruptive energy in the space which often means mismatching or presenting things in conversation with each other. We recently did a presentation at the Salon NY fair with Chen Chen & Kai Williams, Ian Collings, and Karl Zahn, and it felt like us because these makers create work that speaks to each other in a really nice way. 


The Future Perfect at Salon Art + Design 2021
The Future Perfect at Salon Art + Design 2021. Photo: Peter Barker


DoT: So what would you like to see in the future design-wise? What sensibility would you like to see embraced looking forward?

DA: It's about social equality for me. In art and design I hope for a future where we don't have to curate around thinking even about diversity. That it's just already there, that it's implicit.  

DoT: For someone just beginning to collect or consider collecting design pieces, what would you say are the best investments in design right now?

DA: In terms of where design touches art? It’s ceramics. There's a giant crossover happening in the craft of ceramics and a lot of those makers and those artists are working both in design and in fine art. Also it's easier to develop a collection of ceramics. How many desks or tables can you really have? 

If you're an existing collector, then I think that your job right now as a collector is to do more commissions. Because it's really powerful if you have a budget and some spending power, you know. Select an artist whose work you really love. Give them an opportunity to do something really special for you. Because what I've found in my experiences is that those commissions are - one - super incredible. They never lose their value. Never. Like they go into the secondary market and they're worth more than what you're going to pay for it and -two -they're an opportunity in a real way, on a one-to-one to really push and develop the career for an artist or a designer that you're passionate about.

The Future Perfect, Casa Perfect Los Angeles, 2018-2020
The Future Perfect, Casa Perfect Los Angeles, 2018-2020. Photo: Pia Riverola


DoT: We at Snyder Diamond work directly with so many great Southern California interior designers, architects, developers, builders, plumbers, homeowners, and beyond. Knowing that you have a bit of their attention: what would you like to leave them with? What would you like them to know about The Future Perfect?

DA: I would love to intrigue them enough that they might make an appointment and come and visit us. 

Maybe what they need to do first is follow us on Instagram. I totally get it if they’re not ready to commit their time, but maybe they'll go ahead and give us a follow and see what we're about. Maybe they’ll sign up for our email newsletter. And then maybe you will join us for one of our events or come by and see what we have in terms of our exhibitions. 

Design has to be seen in person. It just has to and while I love that Instagram exists, when you really want to experience design you have to see it in the three dimensions it was created in.  Art is the same. You know, I think you can't reproduce the beauty.  I went to the Jonas Wood show at David Kordansky and I love his work so much, but there's so much in the texture and in the oil versus the acrylic and seeing the paint applied to the canvas… It is so different from seeing the pictures from the show. 

Our job is to inspire. It's to inspire and connect with our clients. That's our goal is to take that (out of Instagram and) into real life. That would be the most amazing outcome. That the community connected to Snyder Diamond would be intrigued enough to come and see what we're doing in our space. 

DoT: Yes! There’s nothing like the real… 

DA: Thing! (laughter)

DoT: Thank you, Dave. Let's do it again!


VISIT THE FUTURE PERFECT 

The Future Perfect’s Goldwyn House, located at the base of the Hollywood Hills, is now open and available to visit. Built in 1916 by architect Arthur S. Heineman and once occupied by famed movie producer Samuel Goldwyn, this stunning residential concept gallery is The Future Perfect’s newest Los Angeles location.

To schedule a visit, call 323-202-2025 or visit their website.


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