Artists & Galleries

Art Donovan’s ‘Interstellar’ Exhibition Illuminates at the Maidstone

The artist and lighting designer finds inspiration in steampunk, science and America's space race history.

Southampton artist and lighting designer Art Donovan is back in the spotlight this summer with a new body of illuminated work which he will debut at the Maidstone Hotel in East Hampton this Friday, August 2.

Continuing the thread started with his Art Deco-inspired lighting and steampunk creations—which mix Victorian era technology with futuristic fantasy—Donovan’s new collection taps into the bold optimism of American scientific invention and exploration. Especially apropos this summer, as America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, the lighted works look to the stars and the exciting, imaginative quest to travel the depths of space in search of groundbreaking discoveries and, pardon the reference, new frontiers.

On view at the historic hotel in August, Interstellar, his latest collection of handmade illuminated art, sculptural lighting and iconic steampunk creations references this country’s thrilling years of growth in art, design and science.

At the same time, Donovan has announced his recent induction to the vaunted stable of artists and designers featured on 1stDibs.com, a shopping site showcasing one-of-a-kind and made-to-order pieces from the world’s top artisans and dealers. A carefully curated selection, pulled from of Donovan’s entire artistic milieu—including his well-known steampunk designs, innovative lighting and brand new works—is now on view at the site.

Art Donovan
Art Donovan “Lunativo” (Moon TV)

Among the new Interstellar creations, the artist’s kinetic sculpture “Lunativo” (Moon TV) may best exemplify this throwback to the 1960s Space Race. The piece is built around a vintage television—an homage to the iconic “Philco Predicta” TV of 1959—with an illuminated moon floating in the otherwise black screen. Families all over America followed NASA’s advancements in space exploration via their television screens throughout the 1960s, finally culminating with the most-watched event: Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin’s inspiring, miraculous Moon walk on July 20, 1969. It’s a gorgeous object to behold, and just one of many on display at the Maidstone and on 1stDibs this month.

The jewel box atmosphere of the Interstellar exhibition was created by Donovan’s wife and partner, Leslie Tarbell Donovan, who boasts an extensive background in fashion, museum exhibits, window display and trunk shows for clients as Hermès, Warren Tricomi, William Yeoward and Julie Macklowe.

“It’s truly an honor to be a part of 1stDibs as an artist, and I’m quite in awe of the company of artists I’m keeping here,” Donovan says, referring to luminaries, alive and dead, such as Cindy Sherman, George Nakashima, Andy Warhol, Charles and Ray Eames, Herman Miller, Damien Hirst and many, many more.

Lighting designer Art Donovan at home in Southampton
Art Donovan at home in Southampton, Photo: Oliver Peterson

A former Senior Designer for mid-century design legend Donald Deskey, Donovan is no stranger to good company. In the course of long conversations he enjoyed with Deskey, he learned everything he could about the master’s views on art, design and the foundations of what would later be dubbed “Mid Century Modern.” This foundation imbues all of Donovan’s work, inspiring respected lighting industry editor (for enLIGHTenment magazine) Linda Longo to proclaim, “Donovan is one of the last of our century’s true renaissance men. He is a master curator and designer of cool and re-invented, vintage design. With a keen appreciation of architecture and pop culture history, and an eye for supreme quality, his unique perspective as an artist and designer makes his work truly stand out in crowded field of mediocrity.”

Donovan has penned three best-selling books, including The Art of Steampunk, which spent 13 weeks at No. 1 in Amazons’ Pop Art category. He has designed and crafted custom lighting for: Tiffany & Co in NYC; University of Baltimore Library in MD; Churchill Downs Casino in KY; The Palms Hotel + Spa; Benetti Luxury Yachts, Italy; LeClercq Marine; St. Francis of Assisi Cathedral; Incline Village, Lake Tahoe; Landy Gardner Interiors, RD Jones + Associates; Eric Fishburn Inc.; Stanford Hotels; Gensler; Leo Daly; Walker Group/CNI; First Church of Christ Scientist – Southampton; Disney Cruise Lines and more.

In addition to Friday’s show, Donovan is currently working with NASA (where he visited the James Webb Space Telescope in 2017), the European Space Agency and the Space Telescope Science Institute to create and curate a major U.S. museum exhibition. He famously curated the world’s first steampunk museum exhibition at the Museum of Science, Oxford University, as well as his highly praised show, Odd Beauty, at the Southampton Arts Center, and he assisted in creating another steampunk exhibition at The National Museum/Seoul, South Korea.

Odd Beauty
Odd Beauty at Southampton Arts Center, Photo: Barbara Lassen

Join Donovan at the opening cocktail reception for Interstellar and book signing at the Maidstone Hotel & Restaurant (207 Main Street) in East Hampton this Friday, August 2 at 6:30 p.m. He will also host an intimate artist’s dinner, talk and book signing at the Maidstone on Thursday, August 15 starting at 6:30 p.m. Donovan’s talks fill up quickly, so be sure to RSVP at 631-324-5006.

See more of Art Donovan’s work at donovandesign.artspan.com/home.

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