Archive for September, 2012

Ceramics + Architecture | Ceramica Cumella

Friday, September 28th, 2012

Ceramica Cumella: Shaping Ideas
Architectural Association
School of Architecture
London, UK
29th September – 27th October, 2012

AL_A’s Amanda Levete chose to work with Barcelona’s Ceramica Cumella on her design, constructed from overlapping ceramic tiles, for Established & SonsBench Years installation at the V&A during the 2012 London Design Festival.

Among a long list of current projects, Ceramica Cumella is working with Renzo Piano on his massive Botin Arts Center Project in Spain’s Santander, slated for opening next summer, as well as with Spanish architect Enric Ruiz-Geli on the elBulli Foundation in Roses, near Gerona, also in Spain. Another important project is also underway with Japanese architect Kengo Kuma.

Son of a ceramicist, Toni Cumella, after first studying industrial engineering, dedicated himself to ceramics in 1970. When his father died in 1985, he decided to focus the company, founded in 1880, towards large-scale artworks and collaborations with architects. His idea was to associate an evolved craftsmanship with serial production to re-instate its place in history and culture, and to revive the concept of  identity in a world dominated by global architectural styles. The artistic and scientific innovations – extruding, casting, pressing and revolving – developed by his company have been an inspiration to architects and artists alike and are proving that ceramics are one of the 21st century’s most versatile construction materials.

Ceramica Cumella were a natural choice for the restoration of Gaudi’s Casa Batlió and Parc Guell, which the company undertook as early major commissions, and which established its expertise in the field. There followed projects with Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabue on their Parc Diagonal Mar and Parc Dels Colors, and in 2005, the astonishing Santa Caterina Market. The same year they collaborated with AZPA’s Alejandro Zaera-Polo on the Spanish Pavilion at Expo 2005 in Japan, and in 2007 worked with Jean Nouvel on Placa Sardana (Barcelona). Since then their work has taken them all over Spain, their ceramic skills used extensively in the development of surface treatments for exclusive apartment buildings, a major police headquarters, a prominent bridge, an underground railway station, university faculty buildings, a prestigious bank, but they’ve also had involvement in important projects in Portugal and also in France.

The AL_A/Ceramica Cumella bench should be considered as just a tasty hors d’oeuvre before the main course of the new V&A Café and the transformation of the courtyard areas on which the two companies are currently working.

Images from top
Pluja de Llágrimes (Raining teardrops), 2010, a permanent installation at the Teatre Lliure de Gràcia in Barcelona, Spain, created in collaboration with artist, Frederic Amat

Undulating, multi-coloured ceramic roof of Santa Caterina Market, Barcelona, Spain, 2003-4, produced with Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabue. Detail and ariel view

Honey-comb tiled exterior for the Spanish Pavilion created with architect Alejandro Zaera-Polo at Aichi Expo, Japan, 2005

Exhibition curated by Mis-Architecture

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Art | Collectors, Marcel Brient & Hélène Rochas

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Marcel Brient Collection
– La Page Française
Sotheby’s, Paris, France
Exhibition: until 24th September, 2012
Sale: 24th September, 2012

The Collection of Hélène Rochas
Christie’s, Paris, France
Exhibition: until 26th September, 2012
Sale: 27th September, 2012

Art always was an expensive commodity. In the 21st century it has become an investment of choice/a choice investment. Expressed through a personal art collection, however, character and taste remain invaluable assets. Two French collectors, Hélène Rochas – who died in 2011 – and Marcel Brient, both rich but with very different collections surrounded themselves with pieces that they liked by artists they admired. Next Monday, a substantial part of Brient’s collection will be sold at Sotheby’s, Paris, and just along the road at Christie’s the contents of Rochas’s home go under the hammer on Thursday, 27th September.

Marcel Brient
On the occasion of the sale of four major works by Zhang Xiaogang and Yue Minjun, In London, in 2008, Saatchi Online’s Corentin Hamel interviewed Marcel Brient and Catherine Thieck, joint manager of the New Galerie de France. Thieck, who was asked by Hamel why she had become interested in Chinese artists in the early 1990s, explained that she had only ever worked with five Chinese artists and that Marcel Brient had become intrigued by their work but took his time to choose what to buy: ‘There was no Marcel Brient takeover bid for Chinese artists,’ she said. ‘He has never been to China. There was nothing exotic or strategic about his interest. And I was not that good at explaining the sociological or cultural context. Brient would reflect, then make his choice, at home or in the gallery, with just his eye and mind.’

When he did decide to buy, Brient told the Saatchi interviewer: ‘My first choice was Zhang Xiaogang. I was struck by the beauty of his work, his great intelligence and powerful political impact. With him, China seemed to be taking off, so to speak. So this was a strong, historic opportunity. These very nice, very gentle paintings were clearly denouncing something harsher. A new chapter was about to be written. To me, this way of expressing historical change recalled the painting of the Renaissance.’

Brient’s acquiring art has always been more of a personal adventure than a commercial undertaking. He likes to discover works by chance, rather than specifically seeking them out, and via the close relationships he developed with, among others, Louis Clayeux, Director of Galerie Maeght in Paris from 1948-65, who took him to visit Alberto Giacometti in his studio; Galerie Durand-Dessert; the dealers Claude Bernard and Yvon Lambert, and the aforementioned, Galerie de France. But, it is Brient’s own taste that ultimately leads him to the artists he admires. As with the interest he later developed in Chinese contemporary artists, Brient had been one of the first to purchase works by John Currin, Sigmar Polke, Jeff Koons, Kara Walker and Felix Gonzales-Torres.

Around 100 items from Brient’s collection will be sold. Collectively – if you can excuse the pun – they provide a rich overview of artistic creativity in France during the 1960s and reflect the career of this intuitive acquisitor who discreetly amassed one of the largest agglomerations of contemporary art in France.

In West Berlin on 18th February, 1968, 10,000 people had demonstrated against the Vietnam War. Among the paintings by Michel Parmentier included in the sale is the powerful 18 Février 1968. Important works by the Nouveaux Réalistes are also featured, among them Poussette empaquetée /Packed stroller , 1962, by Christo, who, having previously produced abstract paintings had begun to wrap objects in canvas or plastic. Seita, 1966/7, is an oversized matchbox by Raymond Hains, whose aim was to construct bridges between banal everyday life and the world of creation. Hungarian-born Simon Hantaï, later a leader of the Support/Surface movement, is represented by several canvases that were first folded, crumpled and soaked in colour before being un-folded, these include the delicate Etude, 1969.

Brient lives in a modest apartment with unadorned walls. He rarely gives interviews and never attends social events. These pieces he picked out and handed over to Sotheby’s for the sale are a didactic selection intended to fire up others to be inspired, as he was, by the work of the artists he supported through the acquisitions he made in France in the sixties.

Hélène Rochas
In 1944 on the eve of French liberation, 42-year-old Marcel Rochas, already a famous French fashion designer, who had founded a successful perfume business in 1925, and whose early work had been supported by Jean Cocteau, Paul Poiret and Christian Berard, had just married a young woman, Hélène, who he met on the metro in 1941. The couple chose the ground floor of a 19th century hôtel particulier (rather grand townhouse or inn) at 40, rue de Barbet de Jouy, in Paris’s plush 7th arrondissement, as their new home. Only 11 years later, Marcel died. Hélène Rochas, suddenly a rich widow, was to live in the apartment for the rest of her life, over time furnishing each room with the collection of contemporary paintings, classical furniture and Chinese porcelains she assembled with a seamless unity.

In his touching introduction to Christie’s extensive 216-page sale catalogue, Frédéric Mitterrand, France’s Former Minister of Culture and Communication tells us of how, in their tributes to her after her death, New York celebrated Hélène Rochas as France’s wonder woman. But he claims that they and others in the fashion business gave only part of the truth, without revealing her essential grace. ‘ Madame Rochas’s exquisite manners,’ Mitterand informs us, expressed her profound respect for all people; and, ‘through extraordinarily free, refined taste, she paid tribute to the best artists, known or unknown, from times long past and from her own era.’

This polite, graceful lady had catholic tastes. Alongside her friends Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé, Hélène Rochas was one of the first to start an important Art Deco collection and in 1974, she commissioned four portraits of herself from Andy Warhol. The same year, she acquired Ben Nicholson’s 1933 abstract painting Violon et guitare. She hung the Nicholson facing a striking neoclassical sofa, flanking it with a pair of ormulu-mounted neo-classical vases from Harewood Castle in England. A life-size Portrait of Lucien Guitry by Edouard Vuillard dominated the entrance hall. The living room, which overlooked a pretty green and white garden, was presided over by Braunes Schweigen, a 1925 oil painting by Wassily Kandinsky, hung above a sofa. On one of a pair of neoclassical side tables in the same room stood a large 1954 terracotta vase by Picasso. A massive Balthus painting, Japanese woman with red table, 1967-76, covered one entire wall of the petit salon where Madame Rochas hosted friends and guests. Important examples of classical furniture and European objets d’art, as well as old master and 19th century paintings and drawings could be found throughout the apartment.

Hélène Rochas counted herself as very lucky for having had the chance to encounter some of the 20th century’s most creative minds in the arts, literature and painting as well as music and show business. She enjoyed the opportunity of frequenting the salons of aristocrats and great patrons, but as much as anything it was her own curiosity, her appetite for discovery and keen sense of aesthetics, that  fashioned her taste. As her experience grew, her ideas changed and shifted, she followed new directions but her quest was always quality. Her collection reflects the rich and varied international milieu in which she appears to have so naturally shone. Her collection is estimated to realise €8m ($10.5m,£6.5m).

Works from top
Michel Parmentier
Peinture no.10, 1965
Glycero painting on canvas
Estimate €30,000 – 40,000
©Sotheby’s/ArtDigital Studio

Poussette empaquetée/Packed stroller, 1962
Plastic and string
Estimate €120,000 – 180,000
©Sotheby’s/ArtDigital Studio

Andy Warhol
Portrait de Hélène Rochas, fond vert tendre, 1974
Acrylic and silk screen ink on canvas
Estimate €200,000-300,000

Jean Lambert & Jean Dunand
Deux masques, circa 1925
Lacquered eggshell on oak
Estimate €60,000-80,000

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Photography | Dennis Hopper’s 1960s

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Dennis Hopper – The Lost Album
Vintage Photographs of the 1960s
Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, Germany
Until 17th December, 2012

Dennis Hopper’s first major exhibition of 400 photographs from the thousands he took between the years 1961 and 1967, was at Fort Worth Museum, Texas in 1970 – one year after the release of the counterculture film, Easy Rider, which he directed, co-starred in and also co-wrote. Mounted on cardboard, without frames or glass, the small prints that he sometimes numbered on the back and to which he added brief notes were attached directly to the wall and kept in place by thin strips of wood. When the show finished everything was put into storage, tucked away in five large crates that lay forgotten and were only re-discovered after his death in 2010.

In Dennis Hopper: The Wild Ride of a Hollywood Rebel by Peter L Winkler, (Barricade Books, 2011), the author reveals how Hopper, who came from Kansas, told James Dean, while on the set of Rebel without a Cause, in which he had small role: ‘I hated my home life, the rules, the regimentation… everybody neurotic because they weren’t doing what they wanted to do, and yelling at me when I wanted to be creative, because creative people end up in bars.’ Born in 1936, Hopper would have been in his mid to late twenties when he took the images that form the exhibition at Berlin’s Martin-Gropius-Bau: Dennis Hopper – The Lost Album, none of which have been exhibited in Europe before. In the late 1950s he had left home and gone to San Diego, California to study acting. Having achieved early success, his acting career in Hollywood stalled in 1958, as the result of a serious spat with the director of From Hell to Texas, whereupon Hopper left for New York to study method acting with the legendary Lee Strasberg at the Actors’ Studio. Aside from acting, he wrote poetry and produced paintings and after receiving his first camera as a gift in 1961, took up photography.

Hopper’s photographs reflect the atmosphere of an exciting and turbulent era in the USA when America, via photographers like Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, Gary Winogrand and Diane Arbus, was re-inventing the documentary tradition. And while perhaps his work at this stage is not quite so recognisably individual or always as accomplished as that of these esteemed contemporaries, like theirs, Hopper’s is spontaneous, intimate and keenly observed: it captures an epoch, its protagonists and milieus. Many of the pictures on show are of the icons to whom he was attracted: including James Rosenquist, Andy Warhol, Paul Newman and Jane Fonda but Hopper exercised an intense enthusiasm and curiosity for everything he encountered, from street life in Harlem to bullfights in Tijuana and cemeteries in Mexico. His relentless thirst for photographic subjects led from his family to musicians, Hell’s Angels and hippies, and to his accompanying Martin Luther King on a civil rights march through Alabama, capturing the essential moments of their lives in the prints that are a fascinating album of just a few years of his own.

Dennis Hopper images from top
Paul Newman, 1964
Malibu, California, USA

James Rosenquist, 1964
Billboard Factory, Los Angeles, California, USA

Double Standard, 1961
Los Angeles, California, USA

Andy Warhol, Henry Geldzahler, David Hockney, and Jeff Goodman, 1963

Martin Luther King, Jr, 1965
Montgomery, Alabama, USA

All photographs © The Dennis Hopper Trust
All photographs courtesy of The Dennis Hopper Trust

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Design | Made in Japan

Friday, September 7th, 2012

Made in Japan: 100 New Products
By Naomi Pollock
Foreword by  Reiko Sudo
Merrell Publishers
September, 2012

It’s not surprising that in a world that gets smaller every day in terms of communications, and where cross-cultural influences ebb and flow like never before, that modern product design, increasingly aimed at global markets, has taken on homogenous characteristics. There are of course exceptions but while, for instance, many contemporary Scandinavian products from furniture to glassware remain recognisably Scandinavian, the majority of people would be hard pushed to say whether an item in London’s Skandium shop, which stocks exclusively Scandinavian products, is of Swedish, Danish, Finnish or even Norwegian origin. One wonders whether the inhabitants of these countries themselves can tell the difference. Reiko Sudo, artistic director of Japan’s award-winning Nuno Corporation, in her thoughtful foreword to Japan-based American architect Naomi Pollock’s Made in Japan, thanks her for for identifying the common threads that link Japanese traditional culture and the country’s present day products and recognises that they are perhaps more easily identified through an outsider’s eyes.

The one hundred 21st century products selected for inclusion by Pollock are carefully chosen for their ingenuity, shape and fabrication and tell a story of Japan’s unique design heritage, which has survived partly due to the country’s self-inflicted 200 year isolation, spanning the 1630s to the 1850s, a period in which its borders were closed to foreigners and foreign trade severely restricted, and despite the rapid industrialisation that followed – accomplished with much British help – and major wars it was involved in, in the twentieth century. Still fiercely proud of their rich culture and handicraft tradition, combining cutting-edge technology and precision with stylish design, Japan’s contemporary product creators elevate everyday functional items – paper products, kitchen utensils, flooring, furniture – into works of art that are frequently but indefinably Japanese.

Pollock describes how observations and contributions from outsiders have often been of importance to Japan’s designers. One product in particular, the Ripples bench, above, by Toyo Ito of Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects, designed in 2003, was originally produced in steel and concrete until Luciano Marson, founder of Italy’s Horm, asked: ‘Why don’t we bring it to life?’ His question led to the bench being redeveloped using layers of different laminated wood into which circular, bottom-sizes depressions are bored before hand-sanding and oiling meld the layers into a single flowing, continuous surface. It’s anecdotal details like this that demonstrate the depth of Pollock’s knowledge and painstaking research and make this book special and well worth spending time reading.

As an object itself, Made in Japan, is interesting. The attractive and unusual binding – cloth spine with hard covers – is reminiscent of one of my favourite books in my collection: How to Wrap Five More Eggs by Hideyuki Oka (originally published by Wetherill in 1975, recently republished version available from Amazon) the definitive guide to Japanese traditional packaging. Looking at the two books side by side, the content is different but the sense of continuity is unmistakeable. Unfortunately, designwise however, between the covers it’s another story. Whereas How to Wrap… is laid out with sensitivity – pictures played off against one another or against white or black space – and with an eye to creating rhythm and drama, Made in Japan , aside from the introductory pages is strictly regimented and dully repetitious – product pictures on the right facing equal lengths of text and almost identical display type on the left – and suggestive of a trade catalogue.

Images from top
Plugo extension leads by Masayuki Kurakata/Monos, 2007
©Isuo Sato/Masayuki Kurakata
Standing rice scoops by Marna
Ripples bench by Toyo Ito/Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects
©Giani Antoniali/Ikon

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