Meet the Man Who Turned Aluminum Into a Material for High-End Art

March 7, 2018, 3:06 PM UTC
Fortune Brainstorm Design 2018
029 Fortune Brainstorm Design 2018 Wednesday, March 7th, 2018 Singapore 15:35 - 15:50 DESIGN IN FOCUS: INNOVATING ALUMINUM Alex Rasmussen has transformed his family aluminum business from manufacturing electronic enclosures to public art installations and gallery commissions. He attributes his success to his use of design as a tool to elevate and educate the world about the power and possibility of aluminum. In a special live installation, Alex will share his creative process and his passion for one of the world’s most timeless materials. Presenter: Alex Rasmussen, President, Neal Feay Company Photograph by Stefen Chow/Fortune
Stefen Chow/Fortun

How does an ordinary material like aluminum become a medium for high end art? Alex Rasmussen can tell you.

As president of Neal Feay Company, Rasmussen has transformed his family run aluminum company from an electronics manufacturer to a top global supplier of creative anodized aluminum. During a special live installation on Wednesday at the inaugural Fortune, Time and Wallpaper* Brainstorm Design conference held in Singapore, Rasmussen artistically demonstrated aluminum’s design potential.

“A lot of what we do goes back to the ocean,” said Rasmussen as David Zenor, design engineer at Neal Feay, began arranging a 10 foot, aluminum mosaic sheet of panels on stage, inspired by the spinnaker of the boat they sail every Wednesday.

“Red, for Singapore’s flag.”

Founded in 1945 by Rasmussen’s grandfather, Neal Feay started off as an aluminum distributor for functional, practical goods like electronics. After spending a childhood in the factory with an artistic mother, Rasmussen expanded the company into art as his “way to combine those two very different sensibilities.”

Through his innovations, Rasmussen has expanded broadened the scope of aluminum for use in public art installations and gallery commissions. His portfolio includes commissions by Louis Vuitton and Design Miami. For the London Design Festival in 2015, Rasmussen created The Wave, a 38 square meter installation of blue anodized aluminum triangles.

“It’s not just about the product,” Rasmussen elaborated. “It’s about what else you developed while making the product.”

While developing his colorful aluminum, Rasmussen learned about a new technique for photography and a technology for jewelry. “That’s what keeps it fun,” he said.

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