WORD: KnollingThe fascinating history of the flat lay.

WORD: KnollingThe fascinating history of the flat lay.

Issue 43

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Arts & Culture

  • Words Sala Elise Patterson
  • Photograph Kristen Meyer

Etymology: In 1987, in the quiet after-hours at Frank Gehry’s furniture shop, a janitor named Andrew Kromelow invented what has become one of the most ubiquitous aesthetics on Instagram today. As Kromelow cleaned Gehry’s shop, he would gather stray tools and experiment with arranging them in a grid-like pattern. He called the practice “knolling,” after the hard angles of Knoll furniture, a popular brand that Gehry was designing for at the time. Today, knolling more often refers to the art of spacing out objects on a flat surface at tidy angles to one another and photographing the arrangement from above.

Meaning: By the 2000s, Kromelow’s recreational passion had found its way onto the radar of fellow aesthetes. In 2009, sculptor Tom Sachs declared it the mantra of his studio (...

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