September 1, 2008
Murray Moss answers a few questions on design retail, life, and inspiration—using his thumbs.
Job description: An actor playing the part of a merchant art dealer
Current projects: We’re opening a Moss on December 4 in the SLS Hotel, in Beverly Hills. It’s a Philippe Starck project. I’m also doing the fall New York and Melrose installation lineups. For Design Miami/Basel, I’m working on projects with Maarten Baas and Studio Job. For ICFF, there’s a huge project with Maarten Baas that will go, in a revised fashion, to Art Basel next year.
How do you break a creative block? I walk around Soho. If that doesn’t work, I revert to Häagen-Dazs cherry vanilla.
Why do you do what you do? I began acting forty years ago, which led to running a fashion company, which led to a keen interest in European industrial design. That evolved into a combination of industrial design and studio production, which led to finding myself as an “art dealer.”
Education: After two years at Columbia, I shifted to New York University School of the Arts, where I graduated. After that, it was a school of hard knocks as a fashion producer.
Mentors: Gaetano Pesce, who I first met in ’94, when I just opened the shop; Ingo Maurer; Dieter Rams; and, unknowingly on his part, Achille Castiglioni
World-saving mission: I never established Moss as the gift shop for the United Nations. I called it Moss because I intended it to be autobiographical—completely biased, prejudiced, limited to my experiences, my likes, my dislikes at any given moment—in an effort to keep away from a notion that there even is such a thing as good design.
First act as “design czar”: I would resign.
Dream team: I’m working with everybody that I would want to. I particularly like sharing the day-to-day with Franklin Getchell, who is my business partner and my life partner. I would probably want to add someone like Roman Abramovich to the team in the role of, like, major customer.
Office chair: At work we all use Alias’s Rolling Frame chair, by Alberto Meda. At home Franklin and I use the Eames soft-pad aluminum chair.
Favorite tchotchke: For my fiftieth birthday, Ingo Maurer gave me what he called a bouquet of flowers. It’s a lamp of LED flower lights that are growing out a vase made out of circuit boards.
Most useful tool: The banal answer is my Duane Reade reading glasses. The bigger answer would be the courage of my convictions. Between the two, I would take the glasses.
Best place to think: At home I have one of Dieter Rams’s 620 black-leather armchairs. I can swivel it around and look out at Central Park.
Current read: I’m reading Gone for Good, by Harlan Coben. I’m also paging through The Edifice Complex, and I just picked up the new Rizzoli book Louise Bourgeois.
Something old: Franklin
Something new: I recently bought a vase made by bees from a guy whose work we show.
Guilty pleasure: World Class Cleaners, which one is supposed to use once in a lifetime to clean your wedding dress. I use them every day, for everything. I think I’ve seen too many episodes of Upstairs, Downstairs.
Underrated: Whole milk and the 1980s. Memphis and architects like Michele De Lucchi and Johanna Grawunder were terribly overlooked.
Overrated: Skim milk, tied with the 1950s. That’s from my new experiences out in Los Angeles, where people have a tendency to fall back on 1950s worship: midcentury Modern, plywood.
Learned the hard way: I lost my passport thirteen years ago, and every time I re-enter the United States, I’m always sent to the room for interrogation.
Command-Z (undo): I probably should not have ordered 500 gold glass Christmas ornaments, hand-blown in the Czech Republic, in the shape of twelve-inch sperm. Not a good seller.
Dream job: Opera singer. Standing there in front of an audience—which I love—and basically screaming would be an extraordinary job.