KIOSK is a project about people, places and things founded in New York City in 2005 when downtown Manhattan was changing; the interesting, unique places filled with inspiration were disappearing. We felt an urge to fill the void and set out to create a place where people could look, learn, touch and wax on about anything in the world.

At the same time, we were acutely aware that many vernacular, everyday objects were quickly disappearing from the global marketplace, often to be replaced by inferior copies produced at a lesser cost and that bothered us. As independent manufacturers were being undercut and closing, likewise the goods they produced, often filled with inspiration and character as the result of local aesthetics and needs, were falling to the wayside. And yet, we, along with many of our peers, found these goods to be essential to our work, creation and existence. And so, as KIOSK, we began the process of collecting and showing these common goods that we believe are essential and inspirational to humanity. Within a few months of our founding, the urge to create a place and collect the objects came together at our first location, 95 Spring Street in SoHo, on the second floor.

Designers, artists, cooks, product developers, writers, accountants, actors, administrators, people across the spectrum, inclusive of all ages and backgrounds, were fast taken with what we were showing and we knew then we were onto something – something that was needed. Over time we increasingly understood there is a very real thread in common, basic things; that everyday utilitarian objects are symbols of inclusion, free of cultural, geographical and economical boundaries. They are objects that unite, neutralize and bring people together; they engage, start conversations; bring joy; they change views.

The KIOSK archive today is the product of many people's efforts over time. During the course of 17 years and visits to 20 + countries, we have documented close to 1,400 objects and likewise kept an example of each for posterity. Our collection is unique in its breadth and scope but our process is simple, consisting of: research, site visit, engagement, collection, presentation and transference. We research a location, go to the place; search for very basic, local, vernacular objects while meeting and talking to people along the way. We send the items back home and present them in an exhibition format, telling the story of each item and creating an exchange. While akin to a museum, we differ in one significant way as we operate equally as a small business, selling examples of what we find to fund our work and the next “expedition”. It’s a circular process which has allowed us 17 years of independent, self-funded practice and the possibility to create our archive.

And so, what to do with the KIOSK archive? We could be satisfied and simply continue on as we enjoy what we do. But these objects were not made for storage or for a personal collection, they belong in the world. In addition, we do not see what we have collected as the end-all but rather a beginning. We imagine our archive can create something more. We imagine it can jumpstart a living reference library of objects and that the work we have done is the start of a contemporary material culture library, not specific to a location or a place or form but one which is a global effort to bring together humanity through very basic, unspoken, consumer goods. The things that globally every person can in some way relate to. We believe each object tells a story and can initiate a conversation. This is our motivation.

Our website gives a good view of the project today if you are curious to see more:

Please do not hesitate to reach out with any suggestions or questions you may have, we appreciate it!

Alisa Grifo
Co-founder, KIOSK