We are shocked and saddened to read the news over on Core77 that NY’s iconoclast product designer Tobias Wong passed away over the weekend at the age of 35. We were big fans of Tobi’s wit and willingness to break molds, and it is clear that Wong will be dearly missed. Tobias had been the charming enfant-terrible / provocateur of the NY design scene for years, never shying away from pushing buttons and challenging design conventions.
We first came across Tobi’s playful design sense with the cheerful Sun-Jars and Moon-Jars, the solar-powered LED lamps that are reminiscent of firefly jars. Wong was a fixture at the HauteGreen New York eco design exhibition in 2006-2007, which we were grateful to have the opportunity to participate in while it lasted. Some pics of Tobi at HauteGreen below:
Design critic Aric Chen had this to say about Tobi’s career: Through his work, Wong helped bring forth much of what is now taken for granted in contemporary culture. Influenced by Dada and, especially, Fluxus, he questioned authorship through appropriation; held a mirror to our desires and absurdities; upended the hierarchy between design and art, and the precious and the banal; and helped redefine collaboration and curation as creative practices. Working within what he termed a “paraconceptual” framework, Wong prompted a reevaluation of everything we thought we knew about design: its production, its psychological resonance, its aesthetic criteria, its means of distribution, its attachment to provenance, its contextualization and its manner of presentation. Wong was a keen observer, an original mind, a brilliant prankster, and an unerring friend.
Tobi Wong’s work was widely exhibited, including at MoMA, Cooper-Hewitt, Colette, Prada, and more, and he was named Young Designer of the Year by Wallpaper* magazine (2004) as well as the Brooklyn Museum of Art (2006). The designer is survived by his family and partner Tim Dubitsky. Wong will be missed terribly, and will be not be forgotten.