a modern unicorn tapestry arrives in new york


Milan-based design studio OBJECTS ARE BY arrives in New York with a fresh collaboration with MSCHF Creative Director Lukas Bentel. Titled ‘The Unicorn Rests in a Garden 2,’ the exhibition debuts a reinterpretation of the beloved medieval Unicorn Tapestries, currently displayed in the Met Cloisters in Upper Manhattan. The new tapestries are flanked by a collection of the Milanese team’s design objects inspired by the Milan Metro. All together, the works propose a revival of historical art and design through a contemporary lens.


‘The Unicorn Rests in a Garden 2’ opened on May 17th during NYCxDesign 2024, and will be on view until June 20th, 2024. designboom visited the exhibition, which can be found within a mezzanine-level gallery space of Gotham — a licensed cannabis dispensary and concept store in the Bowery. There, we met with Jenny D. Pham and Phil America, the design duo behind OBJECTS ARE BY, who detailed the philosophies which shape the studio’s works.

mschf objects are byinstallation view, image courtesy OBJECTS ARE BY



objects are by meets mschf’s lukas bentel


America and Pham founded the studio OBJECTS ARE BY in 2022, after meeting in Los Angeles and moving together to Milan. It was here that the duo looked to the aesthetic and functional elements of the city’s subway system to develop its ‘Milan Metro’ series. The forms and graphic clarity of the metro’s bench seats, handrails, and signage  were reinterpreted to shape a collection of trays and vessels. The original subway elements were designed in the early 1960s by a diverse team including Franco Albini, Franca Helg, Bob Noorda, Antonio Piva.


Understanding the value of cross-disciplinary collaboration, OBJECTS ARE BY looked to the fashion industry for their next partnership. At the forefront of viral fashion phenomena is MSCHF Creative Director Lukas Bentel — a New Yorker, and the mind behind the familiar Big Red Boots and holy water-infused Jesus Shoes. His works are often provocative and controversial, disrupting the industry’s traditional narrative.

mschf objects are by
installation view, image courtesy OBJECTS ARE BY



learning from the met cloisters


OBJECTS ARE BY and Lukas Bentel explore the medium of tapestry with this collaboration, creating ‘The Unicorn Rests in a Garden 2’ as a blend of historical art and modern themes. This time, the group looked to New York as an inspiration for the project. Lukas Bentel tells designboom: When thinking of tapestries and New York the first thing that came to mind were the Unicorn tapestries in the cloisters… The cloisters always struck me as being otherworldly, an appropriate venue for the unicorn.


The collection on display at Gotham features nine collectible tapestries inspired by the historic ‘The Unicorn Tapestries’ woven during the 15th century. The original pieces depict the hunt and capture of a mythical unicorn. The contemporary interpretation by OBJECTS ARE BY and Lukas Bentel centers on the unicorn as a symbol of the balance between nature and human desire for control.

mschf objects are by
installation view, The Unicorn Rests in a Garden 2, image courtesy OBJECTS ARE BY



At Gotham’s mezzanine gallery space, visitors will encounter the woven depiction of a unicorn tethered to a fence, at once vulnerable and calm. Surrounding this mythical creature are figures in modern ghillie suits, armed with guns, creating a stark contrast and prompting reflection on the themes of capture, control, and ecological fragility. The work underscores the tension between beauty and destruction, a theme that resonates deeply in our current environmental discourse. 


‘The Unicorn Rests in a Garden 2’ series was woven in Northern Italy with 100% cotton jacquard using environmentally lower-impact practices. This commitment to sustainable design is a hallmark of OBJECTS ARE BY’s ethos, and further bridges the past with a forward-thinking approach.

OBJECTS ARE BY x lukas bentel reinterpret the cloisters' medieval unicorn tapestries
installation view, Milan Metro, image courtesy OBJECTS ARE BY



The 15th century tapestries were created as a form of symbolic storytelling, and are still being interpreted today. Bentel shares with designboom the story told through this reinterpreted series:The unicorn struck me with its presence both as a mystical human invention and as a prominent figural element.


As a human invention, it exists with the same mysterious presence as that of the Loch Ness monster or bigfoot. They do not exist except in our minds, yet they draw their reality by contrast to the world that we live in. As a figural element, the unicorn stands in stark contrast to the muted floral background and its role as something beyond our world implies that everything around it constitutes our world.


I became fascinated with its dark and detailed background and I thought what could be hidden beneath the leaves? And that’s how the figures you see came to be. They are a figural and conceptual alternative to the unicorn occupying our world. But I didn’t know any of this before I got started working through the piece.’

OBJECTS ARE BY x lukas bentel reinterpret the cloisters' medieval unicorn tapestriesinstallation view, Milan Metro, image courtesy OBJECTS ARE BY



Describing the significance of the Met Cloisters, whose architecture informed the design of the exhibition space, Bentel continues:I always thought the cloisters were incredibly neat. In comparison to the surrounding city, they are out of context and transporting. They exist as a consequence of some sort of collector driven heritage vandalism. In some sense they are not unlike the trapped unicorn.


They have been captured and re-homed here from a foreign land. Something I am grateful to have here but also aware that if they were conscious would rather exist elsewhere. Ironically, as I reflect on this, I realize I have re-homed the unicorn in the present.’

OBJECTS ARE BY x lukas bentel reinterpret the cloisters' medieval unicorn tapestriesJenny D. Pham and Phil America, image © designboom



project info:


exhibition title: The Unicorn Rests in a Garden 2

design team: OBJECTS ARE BY (Jenny D. Pham, Phil America), MSCHF Creative Director Lukas Bentel

location: Gotham NY, 2 E. 3rd Street, New York, NY

on view: May 17th — June 20th, 2024