Art & Culture
Ketabi Bourdet Presents the Exhibition Philippe Starck: Ubik, the First Retrospective of the Designer at the Gallery from January 19th to February 18th, 2023

Everyone knows Philippe Starck! He has done everything from pasta, toothbrushes, palaces, airplanes, rice, megayachts, perfume, prefabricated houses, baby bottles, motorcycles and even rockets. Through the prism of Ubik and a selection of pieces whose names come from the novel by Philip K. Dick, this exhibition highlights the furniture of Philippe Starck of the 80’s

Now a superstar designer, known and recognized worldwide, Starck is everywhere. There is not a country in which he is not present, not a big city that does not have at least one hotel or restaurant with a Starck decor, and not an object that he has not redesigned. 

When you start looking at Starck’s furniture from the 1980s, you are quickly intrigued by the names the furniture and objects bear. Mickville, Stanton Mick, Wendy Wright, Titos Apostos, etc. If you google some of them, the results are even more enigmatic. Pepper Young: heroine of an American radio show from the 1930s, Karl von Vogelsang: a 19th century Austrian polemicist, Raymond Keith "Ray" Hollis: an Australian politician born in 1940. There is no real logic and the mystery remains. These names actually come from the novel Ubik by Philip K. Dick. Starck went so far as to name his design studio after the novel. In the book Starck Mobilier 1970-1987, we can read this quote from Philippe Starck: “My furniture often has curious names... They are taken from Ubik, a novel by Philip K. Dick which fascinates me by its very real intuition of modernity. I had said, and I think I’m going to deny it, that I would stop creating furniture when I had used all the names contained in this book. There is only one left...”.

Philippe Starck thus drew his inspiration from the work of another Philip, also a master in his field. Throughout the reading of the novel, at least when you know Starck’s furniture, the most amazing thing is to imagine, to visualize all these pieces of furniture whose names are omnipresent, in action, interacting with each other, fighting for their survival. A table is thus endowed with telepathic powers, an armchair is used as a spaceship, the lunar station in which part of the action takes place is named after a folding table, etc. The schizophrenia of the work is thus pushed to its paroxysm and Starck’s genius could be summed up in this single fact. So much so that, according to Christine Colin, “Everything suggests that Starck, the designer, was born not in France but in “Science Fiction”, with Ubik...”. Reading between the lines, the novel appears as a kind of manifesto of Philippe Starck’s work in the 80s and provides certain keys to reading it. In all, nearly 60 pieces are named after the writer’s work and Starck has sometimes slightly modified the names, changing a letter, the first name or even the sex. Joe Chip becomes Joe Ship, Sammy Mundo becomes Lola Mundo, etc.

It is therefore through the prism of Ubik and a selection of pieces whose names come from the novel by Philip K. Dick, that this exhibition highlights the fantastical furniture of Philippe Starck of the 80’s.

Ketabi Bourdet is presenting the exhibition Philippe Starck: Ubik from now until February 18th, 2023.

Words: Emily Leung & Nikey Cheng
Photos: Studio Shapiro
Published on January 31, 2023