In Good Company: Riya Patel

By Matt Balmer
November 22, 2018

Celebrating The Aram Gallery’s 15th anniversary, curator Riya Patel talks contemporary design, bringing together past exhibitors and the source of her inspiration.


When was the gallery founded and why?
The gallery was set up in 2002 with the aim of promoting understanding of contemporary design and showing the work of designers in their early careers. We’re known for showing experimental work.

How many staff?
Just two! Zeev Aram is the gallery’s director, and I curate and manage the gallery day-to-day.

Where is it based?
It’s based on the third floor of Aram Store, in a converted warehouse on Drury Lane near Covent Garden, London. We have a beautiful industrial-style space with wooden floors and plenty of natural daylight.

What is your latest significant achievement/project of note?
Curating an exhibition to celebrate the gallery’s 15th anniversary. We brought together some of the gallery’s best-known past exhibitors – including Jasper Morrison, Ineke Hans, Martino Gamper and Michael Anastassiades – and asked them to nominate an emerging designer to show with them. It was a fitting tribute to Zeev Aram’s ongoing work in supporting great talent and giving new designers a platform to exhibit their projects.

Which of the exhibitions you curated has been the most popular?
The interactive exhibits are always popular. Blend, a solo exhibition by Raw Color in 2016, had a set of paper shredders that would activate when a visitor walked by. The resulting paper shreds formed a colourful and spontaneous artwork on the floor below.

I’ve just discovered…
The Lebanese Bakery on Russell Street. It can be hard to find good food in Theatreland and this little place is a gem. They serve delicious flatbreads from a hot oven.

Who inspires me…
My parents. They worked hard to give me the freedom to think independently. From them I inherited an attitude of making things happen no matter what – useful as a curator!

I’ve always been a fan of…
The humble designs that make everyday life better, safer or more efficient. I invited designer Oscar Lhermitte to show his No Randomness project here in 2017, which reveals little details – like why A4 paper is a certain size, why pint glasses are shaped as they are, and why safetywear is all the same shade of orange.

My highlight of the last 12 months…
Touring Tuscany, and staying in a very special place called Casale di Cellole (all credit to my husband, who is an architect, for this find!) It’s a peaceful, rural farm with buildings converted to modern apartments, but the design is done incredibly sensitively to balance old and new.

My next design trip is to…
I’m going to Cape Town in February, which I first visited in 2014 when it was World Design Capital. I was introduced to various districts like Woodstock that I’m keen to re-visit. And also Heatherwick’s Zeitz MOCAA on the V&A Waterfront. And then Milan, for the design week, which is always essential for finding new talent and ideas.