Designer Maximo Riera brings his Animal chair collection to Dubai

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Pablo Picasso once said: “learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist”. These words perfectly convey fellow countryman, Maximo Reira’s move from medicine to his true vocation- artist. For many years, his artistic career was relegated to a secondary role due to his professional life in the medical industry.

He then decided to sell his company so he could concentrate on the creative work, which has always been his true passion. Reira gained international acclaim back in 2011 with his distinct Animal Chairs collection that will be exhibited at the Mine art gallery in Dubai from November 11-15.

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“It can be said that I am a self-made artist with a parallel career in the medical industry throughout my life but I managed to keep art very close to my heart. I had the great opportunity to create my own company, which improves the standards and quality of the lives of others. When I started in the industry in the early 8o’s, most of the doctors and surgeons knew about the existence of this type of equipment but had little or no means in its use or application. It was an amazing journey and I have no regrets since I believe that it is never too late to chase your dreams.”

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Conceived as a five-day presentation of his work, Riera has created three exclusive pieces for the region, which will be unveiled at the exhibition in Dubai.

Octopus room London

“It is always a privilege to be able to show your art and creations to an audience. And it makes it more special to have a location like Dubai, one of the most influential cities in the world,” says Riera.

“It is an absolute pleasure for me to collaborate with Cities in this exhibition. Since the moment we started collaborating with each other, there was a sense of understanding that as an artist I appreciate a great deal.

“The Spanish culture had a vast influence from other cultures in history, becoming part of our own identity. The Arabic culture has become part of ours through the connivance and proximity between both civilisations. From what I have seen, art in the Middle East has a lot of potential as in essence, art is and should be, a way of communicating and expressing your deepest feelings and emotions.”

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The Animal Chair collection constitutes a diverse range of species, from mammals to reptiles, and even includes insects.

“This collection gives us an option of admiring what nature is capable of; this is the main reason why, from an early stage, I wanted to be faithful to the animal’s physique. This series is homage to these animals and the whole animal kingdom, which inhabits our planet as an attempt to reflect and capture the beauty of nature in each living thing.”

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Each chair consists of an internal steel frame and is made of polyurethane, with a leather seat.  To create the chairs, Riera began by reproducing his sketches as 3D digital images.

“These images were then utilised to produce the sculptures using computer numerical control (CNC), which allowed mechanised sculpting tools to precisely replicate the pieces. They are then assembled, sanded and painted by hand adding uniqueness to the design.”

Early pieces in the collection were black in colour, but Riera’s recent 2015 additions to the collection feature more detail and colour, focusing on natural tones to result in a more realistic approach.

Riera says: “The Animal Chair Collection is a limited edition project as each piece is produced in a non-repeatable colour code, which results in very unique pieces. Every piece is manufactured to order for each client, taking approximately nine to 11 weeks, as they are handcrafted by hand. It takes an average of 460 hours of work for each individual piece.”

Among the pieces in the collection are representations of the octopus, beetle, blue whale, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, walrus, elephant and toad.

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“If I have to choose one, it would be the Octopus Chair. This was the first piece of the collection. In order to produce it, we have faces a lots of challenges. It is by far the most recognised work of mine worldwide.”

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According to Riera, he chose the chair as his focus because it is a common, everyday object, but it is also important to our daily lives.  His goal was to inject the chair with a sense of vitality; to “make it more present and create a stronger link between the spectator, the piece and the surrounding space”. 

Last year he also produced a 3D printed, miniature series of the Animal chair collection. With 3D printing technology evolving, Riera has no doubts that the 3D printing “opens a limitless universe that is going to make a revolution in the art and design world.”

The Spanish artist has also made a name for himself with his Millennial Consoles collection, which are made from the wood of ancient olive trees and metal. Each console is made using found pieces of wood from millenarian olive trees from the south of Spain. The consoles are manufactured from trees that are sourced as a whole, and only two or three consoles can be obtained from each tree.

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The preparation process involves removing the tree sap, drying the tree and stripping it of its bark.  The ancient wood is then treated and polished and placed on a custom-made metallic structure.

“The idea of the Millennial Consoles is to bring the sterile material back to life, presenting its essence in a new form but at the same time, respecting its immutable substance,” says Riera.

Recently, Riera has expanded his Millennial consoles collection with a blue edition, and has also created bookcases, tables, and desks using the same style and materials that are found in his consoles.

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