The Allen key has become an iconic symbol not just for IKEA, but for the simultaneous, sometimes conflicting frustration and convenience that can come with flat-pack furniture and home goods. Millions of people around the world have wielded these little tools before, huffing and puffing for hours, crouched over confusing kits of parts and inscrutable cartoon instructions (probably while swearing at least once). Now, the Scandinavian retailer is paying homage to this essential object in the form of an Allen-key-shaped lamp and flashlight.
Both items debuted on April 1st, prompting many to wonder whether they were actually real or just an April Fool’s Day joke. But despite their tongue-in-cheek nature, these things are fully functional. Designed by Japanese firm Gelchop for IKEA’s Art Event 2021, the LED table lamp (€39/$46 USD) aims to encourage viewers to question “an object’s ‘true’ purpose in the world,” according to a press release. It’s designed to lay flat on a surface, charges via USB, and consists of aluminum and plastic. The accompanying LED torch (€25/$30 USD) comes in blue or silver and is hilariously oversized.
“The inspiration for our ideas comes from everyday experiences and objects that, with a different approach, we transform into new, fun, and playful works of art and everyday gadgets,” says Gelchop. “IKEA ART EVENT 2021 table lamp and torches are a great example of how we work. So many people associate the Allen key with IKEA, yet it has a completely different function here with our interpretation. It’s something that we hope will even be appreciated by those who are not fans of assembling furniture.”
IKEA’s sixth annual Art Event is a limited collection blurring the line between art and functional design. The brand selected five artists and designers to create pieces that capture the imagination while doubling as useful household items. The other items in the 2021 range include a dramatic black and white tabletop clock by Daniel Arsham, a slitted round wall light by Sabine Marcelis, a framed drone collection by the firm Humans since 1982, and a glass vase and blanket printed with graphic lettering by Stefan Marx.
Many people see art as something to gaze at from a respectful distance in a museum or gallery, but IKEA hopes the event will help democratize art by removing some of those boundaries and encouraging physical interaction. Truly, each one of these pieces has its own story to tell.
An official company statement on the collection reads: “Driven by curiosity, these visionaries take recognizable objects and add their unique artistic spin, shifting our view of what a simple clock or lamp, flashlight or throw, vase or picture is. Each of these pieces has a vision of its own, elevating the ordinary into the extraordinary. IKEA ART EVENT 2021 showcases the future of living with art — where it can be picked up and used as well as thoughtfully reflected upon. There are no boundaries in IKEA’s new vision; art every day for everyone.”
If you like these quirky items, you should snap them up right away, because they’ll only be available for purchase in select stores or for delivery via IKEA-USA.com through May 2021.