Prospect founder Laura Currie brings art to the everyday

A plate with an organic pattern on it.

Acquiring a Judy Chicago or Nir Hod may be more achievable than you think, thanks to the New York member’s collaborations with art titans on limited-edition designs

By Osman Can Yerebakan    Above: Amazon plate by Judy Chicago (courtesy of Prospect)   Wednesday 5 August, 2020   Long read

Living on Prospect street as a marketing student at Georgetown University in Washington D.C., Laura Currie did not plan to start a company named after her address in less than a decade. ‘Having my own business, in fact, found me, and I had no clue what I was getting myself into,’ she ruminates today. 

Currie launched Prospect, which collaborates with contemporary artists to produce limited-edition design products, in 2016 with a T-shirt by Baron Von Fancy, reading ‘BABE’ in the artist’s signature typeface. ‘I’ve always fancied design objects, and later came my interest in art,’ says the 31-year-old, who cemented her interest in artist collaborations during an internship for the launch of a partnership between photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto and Hermès. She soon realised a hunger among young professionals to own artworks they admire, yet without breaking the bank. From a napkin printed with a celestial painting of feminist trailblazer Judy Chicago, to a beach towel emblazoned with a humorous text piece by pioneer conceptualist Lawrence Weiner, her products take relishing art on museum walls or catalogues a step further.

Besides paying homage to her college years, Currie believes that the word prospect encapsulates the past, present and future in art to prompt conversations in approachable ways through objects. You’ve been a fan of Judy Chicago since you first saw her seminal work ‘The Dinner Party’ at the Brooklyn Museum? Prospect offers a slice from feminist art history through plates adorned with patterns of the Amazons, one of 39 female figures she commemorates in her installation. ‘I have always wanted to make some of my work available to a broad audience without sacrificing quality, which is something Laura has been doing,’ said Chicago via email, adding that their collaboration has involved ‘a joint commitment to honoring the history and meaning of my images.’ Currie considers working with such a canonized artist an expansion in her company’s mission of adding an educational element to the utilitarian experience.
A towel with a penis pattern on it.

‘I have always wanted to make some of my work available to a broad audience without sacrificing quality,’ said Chicago 

Above: Bigamy Hood Towel by Judy Chicago. Below: 'Marble Goddess' by Judy Chicago. Bottom: a straw by Misha Kahn (courtesy of Prospect)

A marble stature on a plinth.
A colourful glass drinking straw in a leather holder.
The New-York based company’s growing visibility in art and design circles has meant pushing limits of the products’ educational aspect. A recent collaboration with young artist and designer Misha Kahn for glass straws not only led to experiencing the formation of the straws at a glass-blowing atelier in Istanbul, but also contributed to conscious design by selling reusable products. 

Prospect’s most recent project proves Currie’s attempt to respond to the urgencies of our times. Nothing Lasts Forever/CORONA is a soap bar it recently launched in collaboration with New York-based painter Nir Hod, with 20% of its proceeds going to the Central Emergency Respond Fund. Known for his nocturnal paintings about melancholy and yearning, Hod is no stranger to blurring notions of demise and purity. His standout collaboration with Prospect has been The Night You Left, a series of pink, black or gold acrylic coasters replicating his namesake paintings of cocaine separated into elegant lines. During the height of the pandemic, Hod yet again turned to another iconic white substance for inspiration. ‘I was fascinated by a soap bar’s new meaning as our collective tool for survival,’ he remembers, about his first conception of the object that encapsulates both disintegration and life. ‘I want people both to consume it and keep it as a souvenir of this moment, because “nothing lasts forever”.’ The Life Left Behind, his ongoing exhibition at Los Angeles’ Kohn Gallery, is another testimony for Hod’s tender flirt with materials – in this case with chrome, which he utilises to cover his canvases for a mirror-like quality. The shifting reflections of onlookers over paintings echo with the soap’s dissolution through use and eventual replenishment. For Hod, who poetically says, ‘The present is boring, because in it we always think about the past or future,’ washing hands may resonate with contemplation as much as encountering one’s self on a chrome-washed painting. Prospect helps the artist thin this line between reverie and access.
A box of glass coasters with lines of white powder on them.

Above: The Night You Left coaster by Nir Hod (courtesy of Prospect)

A bar of soap in a box.
‘We are not interested in releasing products with just images printed on them,’ Currie notes, referring to her meticulous approach to design, which she operates with a small team, including her sister on the managerial side. After ideating a product with the artist, she usually finds herself in Istanbul for production. During her time in the city, which she now calls ‘a second home’, she moves between her room at the Istanbul House and the city’s glass ateliers or fabric markets. Currie may crave Turkish-style waffles by the Bosporus, yet şekersiz (meaning ‘sugar-free’) is one of the few words she has grabbed from Turkish – and she’s determined to make progress. Determination has, in fact, been a key for the young entrepreneur who has slowly built Prospect’s recognition in the art world, where consumer design may often remain in the periphery. Her co-chair role in The Young Patron Steering Committee of New York’s storied design museum Cooper Hewitt, or collaborations with institutions such as The Bass or Performa, manifest a commitment to critical discourse around her artists’ works. In 2018, Soho Beach House in Miami was home to Prospect’s partnering with ICA Miami to host a panel with Judy Chicago about her museum retrospective, A Reckoning, and the towel they launched in her honour.   

‘Use them,’ Currie says, about Prospect’s products, which fulfill their resonance in the hands of their users, rather than on pedestals or walls. How about starting with Hod’s soap to wash off our collective mundane and let art flow in?
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