April 2019

Founded by a visionary in 1986 in Hamburg, Tobias Grau is now a multidisciplinary, international design brand with more than 150 people under its wing. Working out of an impressive, purpose-built HQ (which is itself, aptly, a pioneering example of solar-powered architecture), the company continues to design lighting solutions that follow a design philosophy defined by beauty, sustainability and technological innovation.

For Tobias Grau, technological innovation isn’t just for the sake of technical innovation. The eponymous brand believes that form absolutely follows function, and technology helps facilitate that. What’s remarkable is that intuitive design and usage is at the cornerstone of the company’s design approach. The mantra seems to be ‘minimal and expressive’. This means that, at its core, the focus is on the experience of the user, and the various contexts in which the lighting – ahem – shines.

Tobias’ wife Franziska joined the company in 1992. In the same year the international reputation of the company continued to flourish, with exhibitions at IMM cologne and Salone del Mobile in Milan. As though coming full circle, Tobias and Franziska’s two sons –Timon and Melchior – have, alongside their art studies, recently started taking on some responsibility for the art direction of their parents’ brand. Having been fostered among the family discourse about creativity and vision, they fully understand the elements of the philosophy and legacy that they want to hold steadfast, while giving it their own zest. This year, after a six-year absence at the fair, the Grau brothers are designing the booth for Tobias Grau at Salone del Mobile. And their excitement is palpable.

On show in Milan this year will be the brand’s latest home lighting collection, shown in an experimental booth that channels mobility and minimalism. We’ll get to experience large- scale installations that showcase the brand-new portable lamps SALT&PEPPER – referred to as a 21st century candle – and PARROT, the first light object designed by Timon and Melchior.

The brothers, based between Berlin and Frankfurt, have done stints at both the Berlin University of the Arts and are now studying under Willem de Rooij at the Städelschule in Frankfurt. What they’re learning through critical and multicultural discourse is to separate less and connect disciplines more. This is why, wearing the hat of art directors, the newest campaign for the lamp that they designed – PARROT– isn’t just a campaign image shot by renowned fashion photographer Alessio Bolzoni, but also a stand-alone artwork that is being shown in art exhibitions internationally.

The light object itself is inspired by a performance the brothers did in Athens, in which they freely moved around an exhibition space. No wonder, then, that the piece is fully portable, cable-less and defines a new genre of luminaire. This lighting tool liberates our concept of a light source from static to a fluid entity. The form resembles that of a human body, with a telescopic neck and a rotating head. With its integral qualities of transformation, PARROT metamorphoses light into a fluid, performative and – above all – interactive entity.

Keep your ears open about the upcoming solo show of the Grau brothers at Shore Gallery in Vienna at the end of the summer, which will also feature PARROT. It’s rumoured to be a right squawk.

Time is only movement, 2016, Super (Athens), photos: Luca Lomonaco
Tobias Grau Salt & Pepper lamps photographed by Alessio Bolzoni
Tobias Grau Portable Parrot lamp photographed by Alessio Bolzoni
Time is only movement, 2016, Super (Athens), photos: Luca Lomonaco
This article appeared in DAM72. Order your personal copy.