Posts Tagged ‘E1027’

Architecture + Design | Eileen Gray: One-off

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Eileen Gray
Centre Pompidou
Paris, France
20th February – 20th May, 2013

Gliding up the escalator at London’s National Portrait Gallery, one looks down on the Digital Space on the mezzanine level, where friendly, comfortable, and exceedingly stylish Bibendum chairs mingle effortlessly, despite their bulk, with the glowing computer screens. Anyone can sit down on one but at a retail price of £2,215/€2,563/$3,380, few could afford to buy one. Aptly named after the Michelin tyre company’s symbol, Eileen Gray’s Bibendum chair was designed principally, as a one-off. The same can be said of her furniture for E1027, the modernist holiday home she built with her lover, Jean Badovici, at Roquebrune Cap Martin in the south of France between 1926 and 1929. Had it not been for English furniture manufacturer, Zeev Aram, who was responsible for reviving her reputation during the 1970s, when she was almost entirely forgotten, Gray’s other classic designs for furniture, rugs and lighting may never have gone into mass-production. E1027, too, which fell into a decrepit state, may also easily have slipped into oblivion.

‘Eileen Gray ranks among the architects and designers who have left a significant mark on the 20th centuty,’ asserts the press release for the eponymously titled, long-overdue, eponymously titled retrospective that opened this week at Paris’s Centre Pompidou. But, although it reflects many of the trends, debates and dilemmas of the early 20th century, her legacy of buildings and furniture is small in comparison to that of her contemporaries, such as Le Corbusier. Indeed, some even lay the blame for this at Le Corbusier’s door. Director Mary McGuckian’s The Price of Desire, in which Winona Ryder take the lead role as Eileen Gray is scheduled to begin shooting this summer at E1027, where painstaking renovations are almost complete. The story is based around the controversial belief that Le Corbusier, (played by Vincent Perez) effectively effaced Gray’s contribution to modern architecture. Badovici had kept E1027 after his and Gray’s split in 1932 and to Gray’s astonishmernt and anger, invited Le Corbusier, by then a regular visitor, to decorate its walls with murals in his characteristic, crude, Picasso-esque style – which he customarily executed while nude. While others have interpreted this as an act of envy and covetousness, Gray called it vandalism. It could also be true that she considered the subject matter as critical of her bisexual lifestyle. Apparently, in 1949, Le Corbusier went on to published photographs of the the murals without accrediting the house – vaguely described as being ‘at Cap Martin’ – to Gray, and not himself, thus providing the tenuous crux of the forthcoming film’s plot. It ignores that fact that, shortly after it’s completion and after spending a few days there, Le Corbusier sent Gray a postcard extolling its ‘rare spirit… so dignified, so charming and full of wit,’ and that in 1936 he invited her to show within his Pavilion des Temps Nouveaux at the Paris Exposition Internationale, where she presented her plans for a holiday centre, after which she appears to have gone into effective retirement.

Gray, born into an arty, Irish, aristocratic family had studied fine art at at the Slade in London. Bored, in 1902, she moved to turn-of-the-century Paris, plunging headlong into the hedonistic lifestyle and sexually-ambiguous milieu. Her apartment, at 21 Rue Bonaparte, was to remain her principal home until her death in 1976. On an extended visit to London, to be with her ill mother, she learned the art of lacquering. perfecting the skill on her return to Paris, where she started to produce high quality lacquered furniture with a craftsman-like finish in the style later to be called Art deco. As her confidence grew, she began to design whole commissioned rooms down to the smallest detail, listing Elsa Schiaparelli among her clients. However, on her return to Paris from England after World War I, during which she had spent time working as a nurse and discovered a social conscience, Gray became dissatisfied with the the type of work she was producing. At this point she met fell in love with Jean Badovici, a Romanian émigré, studying architecture in Paris and involved in the production of several avant-garde magazines. Coming into contact with the highly influential Dutch De Stijl group, whose projects included the design of social housing, she decided to become an architect. Badovici, aware of her wealth, suggested that he should write a brief for a house that she might build for him. She leapt at the idea, and immediately began searching for a suitable site in the south, where they might escape prying eyes. Badovici would provide the necessary technical support, which she, having had no formal training as an architect, lacked.

The Roquebrune Cap Martin villa site, an idyllic setting on the edge of a rocky outcrop, a few miles east of Monaco, may have come as a recommendation via Le Corbusier’s wife, Yvonne, who was Monégasque, so he might already have been familiar with the location, where he was to spend every August for the next 18 years, building his famous and idiosyncratic cabanon close by, as well as a small group of modular holiday homes, the Unités de Camping. Eventually, in 1965, he died there while swimming in the bay below. The powerful Paris-based Fondation Le Corbusier won the argument over whether his murals would be painted over – they will be remain and are being restored.

Despite her claimed social conscience, Gray only ever got around to building her compact but luxury villa E1027, and another larger one for herself, Tempe a Pailla (1934), overlooking Menton. Le Corbusier had been commissioned to build his first recognisably modernist house, The Amédée Ozenfant House and Studio, in Paris, in 1922. His Villa le Lac (1923), at Coreaux, Switzerland, destined to be the home his parents, has a free, adaptable floor plan, sliding, room-length windows looking out over the lake (although not floor-to-ceiling height), a flat roof that could be used as a sitting-out area and a garden terrace – all strikingly similar to E1027. Just before work on E1027 was started, Le Corbusier’s adjoining luxury Villas Jeanneret and La Roche, in Paris, (now housing the Foundation Le Corbusier Museum) were completed, in 1925. He designed many other luxury houses in the late 1920s and early 1930s, notably Villa Savoye (1931). His first apartment block was completed in 1926. In 1929, he built the Cité de Refuge, for the Armée du Salut (The Salvation Army), in Paris. His output continued and was stupendous. Many years later, Le Corbusier’s landmark social housing project the Unité d’Habitation (Housing Unit), in Marseille, France, was completed in 1952.

Gray’s Art deco pieces are remarkable and have a sensitivity and human quality which was totally new to furniture design that she somehow clung on to and carried through to the modernist items she designed for E1027 and Tempe a Pailla. Her E1027 table and Bibendum armchair were inspired by the recent tubular steel experiments of Marcel Breuer at the Bauhaus (who had been inspired, himself, by Mart Stam – a prominent socialist), while the Transat chair pays tribute to Gerrit Rietveld but avoids his uninviting rigidity of form.

Original Eileen Gray furniture does not come cheap. In a Christie’s auction in 2009, an art deco Snake armchair from Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé’s collection fetched £18,930/€21,905,000/$28,238,000. Along with the villa, Badovici had retained the furniture. After his death in 1956, both were apparently well looked after by a the next owner, a Madame Schelbert. Fortunately, when Dr Kägi, who bought the property in 1982 (he was later murdered there by his gardener in 1996) decided to sell off the furniture for €390,000 the Centre Pompidou exercised its right of pre-emption on the sale and bought the most important items, which are on display in the current exhibition. The chairs and other items of furniture at the restored villa are being donated by Zeev Aram. Visitors are unlikely to be allowed to sit on them.

Photographs from top
Panelled screen by Eileen Gray, 1919-1922
Black lacquered wood
Special collection, courtesy Galerie Vallois, Paris
© Photo Vallois-Paris-Arnaud Carpentier

Portrait of Eileen Gray, Paris, 1926, Berenice Abbot
©Berenice Abbott/Commerce Graphics

View of the salon at villa E 1027, built by Eileen Gray
and Jean Badovici between 1926 and 1929
Centre Pompidou, Bibliothèque Kandinsky
Estate of Eileen Gray
Photo Alan Irvine

Bibendum armchair by Eileen Gray, circa 1930
Chrome, leather
Private Collection, Mme Tachard
©Photo Christian Baraja, Studio SLB

View of the southern façade of Eileen Gray and Jean Badovici’s
villa E1027, from the sea at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France
Centre Pompidou, Bibliothèque Kandinsky, Paris
Estate of Eileen Gray/Guy Carrard

View from the lake of Villa le Lac, built by Le Corbusier in
1923 at Corseaux, Switzerland


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Architecture | Design | Objects des Architects

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

Arts Décoratifs du XXe siècle & Design Contemporain
Sotheby’s
Paris, France
Exhibition: 22nd, 23rd, 24th & 26th November, 2012
Sale: 27th November, 2012

If it isn’t a contradiction in terms, the phenomenon of modern architects creating furniture, and sometimes decorative items, for use in the buildings they design and elsewhere might well be termed a ‘tradition’. And the importance of this tradition is confirmed in the upcoming Arts Décoratifs du XXe siècle & Design Contemporain sale at Sotheby’s, Paris, which features items by, among others, Le Corbusier (with Pierre Jeanneret), Gio Ponti and Tadao Ando: architects whose work overlapped in a time span stretching from early 20th century modernism, through mid-century modern to whatever label we’re currently attaching to 21st century contemporary.

Sir Norman Foster, and Foster and Partners, responsible for many of the world’s key buildings of the last 30 years have designed sofas, lamps, bookcases, door handles and even sanitary ware for a range of clients, including Knoll, Molteni & Co, Acerbis and Nomos. There’s even a Gherkin lamp available from Kundalini. If modernism hadn’t already caught up with the future, Zaha Hadid’s and Amanda Levete’s respective oeuvres might still be referred to as futuristic. Zaha Hadid ArchitectsZ-Scape Furniture, designed in 2000 and produced by Sawaya & Moroni, is an ensemble of lounge furniture, whose forms derive from geology, glaciers and natural erosion but the company has also created equally-arresting and sculptural vases, lamps and tables. At Future Systems and currently, at AL_A, Levete has produced sinuous benches for Established & Sons and, in collaboration with Phillips, lighting, notably the Edge light. Always keen to control every aspects of the furnishing of his interiors, John Pawson, too, has had several of his spare furniture pieces produced by Driade. Common amongst all of the products created by these architects is quality design and a high degree of craftsmanship.

The fine, glazed earthenware Classical Conversation/’L'architetto’ bowl included in the Sotheby’s sale was produced by him around 1924, just one year after Gio Ponti began his career as an architect, during a period when he was influenced by and associated with the Milanese, neo-classical Novecento Italiano movement. Ponti would go on to become one of his country’s most important 20th century modernist architects, industrial designers, artists and publishers – he founded and was twice editor of Domus magazine. Building offices for Fiat during the war years, the attention attracted by his Pirellone/Pirelli Tower (completed, 1960), in Milan, earned him worldwide fame and international commissions, including the Denver Art Museum, 1971. His renowned furniture designs for Cassina include the 1957 Superleggerra/Superlight chair, and he produced lights for, among others, Artemide and Fontana Arte.

Le Corbusier – still probably the most famous architect in the world, and certainly of the 20th century, his array of built work too vast and familiar to list here – and his cousin Pierre Jeanneret’s wood and partially grey lacquered free-standing cabinet, was made in 1927, having been designed for The Poplars/Maison Guiette residence. Built by the practice in Antwerp, the house is an early and classic example of the International Style. Having been joined by Charlotte Perriand, Le Corbusier and Jeanneret presented their new concepts in furniture design at the 1929 Paris Salone d’Automne. That same year, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, whom Le Corbusier had probably met, along with Walter Gropius during a sojourn in Berlin, created the Barcelona chair for his avant garde German pavilion at the Barcelona Exposition. Although only two Barcelona chairs were made for the exposition, the design was put into production and became so popular that, with the exception of a sixteen-year period, it has been continuously manufactured. Earlier, In 1908, Le Corbusier had studied architecture under Joseph Hoffman in Vienna – himself an architect who loved to design furniture – and would have been familiar with Hoffman’s designs, based famously on the square, and particularly the Kubus chair, 1910, which was almost certainly an influence on his and his co-designers’ very cubic Grand Confort armchair, albeit the construction is entirely different. Centre-piece of the Salone d’Automne show, the famous design was reissued by Cassina in 1965. The company makes some fourteen other Le Corbusier furniture items, including the equally familiar LC4 chaise longue and LC6 dining table.

In a kind of reversal of the process, in 1924, furniture-maker, Gerrit Rietveld built the Rietveld Schröder house and filled it with objects he designed. When Eileen Gray, famous for her sumptuous Art Deco lacquered screens suddenly became a modernist convert, she built her exquisitely modern home, Villa E1027, designing for it radical, but equally luxurious pieces that required production by skilled craftsmen. Her Bibendum chair, originally created for the the rue de lota apartment in Paris, in 1925, lay largely forgotten until an original re-surfaced in a 1972 auction, which prompted a new production of the design classic. Eero Saarinen, studied sculpture in Paris and architecture at Yale before working on furniture design with Norman Bel Geddes and practicing architecture with his father, Eliel. His furniture for Knoll includes dining and low tables, the Executive chair, the Tulip chair, and the Womb chair and ottoman.

During the 1980s, when Alberto Alessi took over the management of the Italian Alessi kitchen utensil company, he began collaborations with designers, and especially with architects, to produce high-end, exclusive products. Among the best known of the company’s product range from this period are Richard Sapper’s kettle with a two-tone whistle and Michael Graves‘ kettle with the bird shaped whistle.

By 1941, when future Pritzker Prize winner (1995), Japanese architect Tadao Ando was born, modern architecture was firmly on the world map. Having taken no formal training Ando travelled the world visiting buildings by Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Kahn, then established Tadao Ando Architect and Associates in Osaka, in 1968. Strongly influenced by his traditional Japanese background his architectural style emphasises empty space to represent the beauty of simplicity, placing the inner feeling of a structure before its appearance. Working primarily in exposed cast-in-place concrete, from a formidable list of 154 completed projects, Ando is best known for The Church of Light in Osaka, 1989, The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St Louis, 2001, and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 2002. Current projects include a mausoleum for fashion designer, Tom Ford. His minimal buildings are designed to contain little in the way of furniture, however he has lately collaborated with Danish furniture company Carl Hansen & Son on a project to develop a prototype chair honoring the aesthetic of the late Danish designer Hans Wegner, which will be available in 2013. In 2011, to mark their 90th anniversary, he created a limited edition vase for leading Venetian glassmakers, Venini, established in Murano in 1921. At an estimated sale price of €35,000-45,000, a set of three of these vases, all signed and dated and coming from a private collection in Germany, is included in the Sotheby’s sale.

Objects included in the Sotheby’s sale, from top
Tadao Ando
Set of three coloured glass vases in anthracite, red and ochre, 2011, for Venini
Estimate €35,000-45,000

Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret
Wood and partially grey lacquered wood, double-sided cabinet, circa 1927
Estimate €12,00-15,000

Gio Ponti
Glazed earthenware bowl, Classical Conversation/’L'architetto’, 1924
Estimate €15,00-20,000

Photographs ©Sotheby’s/ArtDigital Studio

Tell us what you think
The Blog is about art, architecture, gardens, books, design and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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