beams of red light in David Lynch's exhibit

Inside David Lynch’s Dark and Moody Exhibit at Salone del Mobile

Editor’s note: Here, architect Alexander Gorlin, founder of his namesake firm, offers a first-hand account of David Lynch’s buzzy exhibition at the 2024 edition of Salone del Mobile.Milano. Read on for his expert take.

As an oasis within the cacophony of this year’s Salone del Mobile.Milano, which wrapped April 21, the great filmmaker David Lynch created two “Thinking Rooms” in the plan of Buddhist meditation mandalas, a square within a circle. The outer circles, veiled in red velvet curtains, were mysteriously enclosed spaces amidst the open vendor exhibits at the fair. Those curious enough to enter walked through a pitch dark corridor, recalling the many nocturnal journeys in Lynch’s films, arriving in a space ringed by undulating dark blue cylinders.

In the center sat an illuminated throne-like chair with a foldable writing surface—to write, think and meditate, like the Renaissance theme of St Jerome in his study. Underfoot, the floor featured an enlarged wood grain pattern, reminiscent of the zig zag details seen in the Red Room of Lynch’s T.V. series “Twin Peaks.” Atop the throne were seven apparent electrical nodes that emanated vertical white rods that refracted into triangular patterns. Like Lynch’s films, many meaning are possible, yet he provides few clues.  Are these streams of light thoughts rising to the sky above; dramatic lightning bolts of ideas; or the spiky hair of the protagonist of “Eraserhead,” Henry Spencer? Or are they metaphors of the electricity that gave life to Frankenstein, ideas animating inert earthly matter? While a single person occupies the throne, a ring of observers views the “thinker” in the center, recreating the theme of voyeurism in Lynch’s films, as when Kyle MacLachlan watches the nearly naked Isabella Rossellini from the closet.

The chair is fixed by four framed images at the cardinal points of evocative, complimentary themes. On the left is a slab of a butchered cow; on the right an illuminated halo of light, flesh and the spirit. Ahead is an image of belching smokestacks, directly behind is a milling crowd scene, perhaps conjuring death and life. Atop each framed image portal is a ring with a golden eye, surmounted with a skyline, recalling the Emerald City in “The Wizard of Oz.” The “Thinking Room” is at once disturbing and inspiring, an interior that indeed makes one contemplate big ideas.

At the center of the exhibit, a throne-like chair offers an opportunity for visitors to step into the spotlight.
beams of white light illuminate the ceiling
Illuminated beams extend from the throne to the ceiling, creating geometric patterns.
four illuminated patterns inside David Lynch's exhibit
The exhibit is organized to reflect patterns in meditation mandalas.
a numerical market in david lynch's exhibit
Each visual on display is framed with a golden eye.
an image still from david lynch's exhibit
Images include this moody shot of smokestacks.
a pattern of four squares around one at center
An image of a dense crowd offers food for thought.
beams of light shine on the outer red curtains in David Lynch's exhibit
Veiled in red velvet curtains, David Lynch’s exhibit sparked intrigue at the fair.
sketch of David Lynch exhibit at Salone del Mobile
A sketch of the exhibition, with enlarged woodgrain floors.

The exhibition was curated by professor Antonio Monda of New York University: writer, filmmaker and essayist; designed by David Lynch, and executed by the firm of Piccolo Teatro.

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