Posts Tagged ‘Gerrit Rietveld’

Design | Sitting on top of the 20th Century

Friday, December 11th, 2015

Gerrit Thomas Rietveld (1888 > 1964)
Steltman chairs, pair, designed 1963
he second is a mirror image of the above)
Stained oak.
Estimate $80,000 > 120,000

Design Masterworks
Rockefeller Plaza
New York City | USA
Exhibition 12 > 16 December 2015
Auction 17 December 2015

Marc Newson (1963 >)
Lockheed Lounge, designed 1990
Fibreglass-reinforced polyester resin core,
blind-riveted sheet aluminium,
rubber-coated polyester resin.
Estimate $1,500,000 – 2,000,000

Looks can be deceiving. Amongst the rare and much sought-after items in Christie’s forthcoming Design Masterworks sale, a pair of Steltman chairs, for instance, designed by Gerrit Rietveld in 1963 – placing their production firmly in the mid-century period – are rooted in the far more remote early modernist years, while hints of the 1960s’ brutalist architectural style are also easily detected in the form.

Superficially, with its Sputnik aesthetic, Marc Newson’s three-legged Lockheed Lounge, with a blind-riveted sheet aluminium finish, also reminiscent of post-war airliners, produced as a limited edition of ten, in 1990, toward the end of the twentieth century, might well have been designed when Arne Jacobsen was sketching out his Drop chair for his SAS Radisson Blue Hotel in the late 1950s. (Incidentally, recently relaunched by Fritz Hansen, the Drop is now available with a plastic shell in a selection of colours with matching powder-coated legs.)

Arne Jacobsen (1902 > 1971)
Drop chair, designed c 1958
Copper-plated steel, leather
Estimate $20,000 > 30,000

Hans Wenger (1914 > 2007)
Easy chair, designed 1953
Oak, leather, fabric upholstery
$30,000 > 50,000

The spindly legs, of course, are always a dead giveaway, but, paradoxically, the upholstered full, rounded back and chunky armrests of Hans Wenger’s Easy chair, 1953, are strongly suggestive of the art deco period that spawned Jean Prouve’s Sanatorium armchair, whose tapered seat shape and slimmer armrests in turn foreshadow the lightness of form that would appear in late 1940s and 1950s furniture design, made possible through the use of new materials and improved production techniques brought about by advances in technology.

Jean Prouvé (1901 > 1984)
Sanatorium armchair, c 1932
Painted metal, leather, stretched canvas
Estimate $140,000 > 180,000

Although more chair designs, notably by Gio Ponti and Finn Juhl are included, Design Masterworks at Christie’s isn’t confined to seating. The tightly-edited series of lots, each with impeccable provenance and stand-alone individuality, flying in the face of chronological categorisation, features a striking c 1930 wall light from the palace of the Maharaje of Indore made by Max Krüger, Flavio Poli’s Valva siderale internally-decorated glass vase, 1954, and Carlo Mollino’s anthropomorphic maple, tempered glass and brass An Occasional Table made around 1950.

All images courtesy and © Christie’s

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The Blog’s publishers 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 that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Auction | Architect-Built Furniture

Friday, April 25th, 2014

Ettore Sottsass
Bookcase, 1994

Plastic-laminated wood.
Produced by Galerie
Mourmans, the Netherlands.
Estimate £6,000 > 8,000

The Architect
Exhibition 23rd > 29th April 2014
Sale 29th April 2014
London | UK

Some 400 works designed by an august pantheon of international architects – among them, Michael Thonet, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Eliel Saarinen, Gerrit Rietveld, Poul Henningsen, Arne Jacobsen, Gio Ponti, Oscar Niemeyer, I M Pei, Buckminster Fuller, Ettore Sottsass, Richard Meier, Zaha Hadid and Shiguru Ban – encompassing items from the mid-19th century up to the 21st, will be auctioned next week in London.

For this inaugural event, uncompromisingly entitled The Architect, the auction house Phillips chose architect Lee F Mindel FAIA, of the New York-based multi-award-winning Sheldon, Mindel & Associates Inc, as curator. SM&A, who, since establishing their company in 1978, have designed numerous lofts and private homes – including one for musician Sting and his actress/producer wife Trudie Styler – were also responsible for the interior of the gallery/sales office for Herzog & deMeuron’s prestigious 56 Leonard Street development of luxury condominiums. The company have designed furniture and lighting as well as interiors for ocean liners and at least one Gulf Stream jet. They believe that ‘Simplicity is the most complicated thing to pursue, but when all elements synthesise, they transcend mere enclosure and become an art form.’ The latter is a quote from the magazine Architectural Digest, which has recognised SM&A as one of the top 100 design firms of the last century. On Phillips’ website Mindel himself quotes American architect Louis Kahn as having said: ‘Design is not making beauty. Beauty emerges from selection, affinities, integration, love.’ But, enough of this high-minded proselytising and sentimental stuff – so clearly intended for the unconverted. Let’s take a look at a selection of the inspiring array of objects on offer, which, hopefully, speak for themselves.

Gerrit Thomas Rietveld
Maquette, for the ‘Danish’ chair,
circa 1950>1956
Estimate £4,000 > 5,000

Oscar Niemeyer
Pair of ‘Aran’ lounge chairs,
circa 1975
Leather, stainless steel.
Made by Aran Line, Italy.
Estimate £15,000 > 20,000

Arne Jakobsen
Designed for the American
Scandinavian Foundation,
New York, 1952

Leather, chromium-plated
steel, ebony, painted wood.
Made by cabinetmakers
Rud Rasmussen A/S, Denmark.
Estimate £40,000 > 60,000

I M Pei
Double-sided clock, from
the John Hancock Building,
Boston, circa 1976
Steel, acrylic
Estimate £6,000 > 8,000

Zaha Hadid
Ordrupgaard bench,
model no PP995
for the Ordrupgaard
Museum extension,
Charlottenlund, Denmark,
circa 2006.
Ash. Produced by
PP Mobler,
Estimate £35,000 > 45,000

All images courtesy of Phillips

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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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Design | Marcel Breuer: Defying Gravity at Villa Noailles

Friday, June 28th, 2013

Marcel Breuer… Sun & Shadow Exhibition
Design Parade 8 Festival
Villa Noailles & Tour des Templiers
Hyères, France
Festival: 5th – 7th July, 2013

Exhibitions at the Villa: 5th July – 29th September, 2013
Exhibitions at Tour des Templers: 6th July – 29th September, 2013

Book: Marcel Breuer à la villa Noailles
Directed by Stéphane Boudin-Lestienne & Alexandre Mare
Available July, 2013

Conference: Villa Noailles gardens, 7th July, 2013

Each summer, as part of the international Design Parade festival and the permanent exhibition Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles, A life as Patrons, the Villa Noailles, focuses its attention on a theme or an artist connected with the famous couple and their modernist villa, designed and built for them by Robert Mallet Stevens between 1923 and 1927. This year, in Design Parade 8 it’s key modernist figure Marcel Breuer’s turn.

Although well known amongst designers and architects, the organisers argue that Breuer (1902-1981) remains strangely unheard of amongst the general public, and that his architecture in particular is overlooked. Their aim, via the forthcoming events at Hyéres, near Toulon on France’s Mediterranean coast, is to raise more general awareness of Breuer’s achievements.

‘Breuer defied gravity, searching for a balance between the stable and the vertiginous, between the functional and the symbolic, between emptiness and fullness, write curators Stéphane Boudin-Lestienne & Alexandre Mare, citing the striking slate tile covered ecumenical chapel in the ski resort of Flaine (1974) and its nearby hotel Le Flaine (1969), which partly overhangs a cliff, as emblematic of the boldness that was a feature of Marcel Breuer’s career.

Only 18 years old when he arrived at the Bauhaus in Weimar, Breuer’s phenomenal talent quickly raised him, in a few years, from student to Bauhaus teacher. The Africa chair (1921), a kind of giant throne, incorporating decorative sculptures, and upholstery from the Bauhaus weaving workshop, was his first finished design. His later experiments in wood owed much to the De Stijl movement, particularly to Gerrit Rietveld’s work. His first real breakthrough occurred in 1925, when, inspired by his Adler bicycle frame, he began designing chairs in tubular steel. At first, he marketed these through Standard Möbel, the company he set up, but licensing agreements with furniture manufacturers such as Thonet, soon followed. Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles were amongst the first to acquire several of Breuer’s radical B3 (decades later named Wassily by Italian manufacturer Gavina) chairs, which they installed at the Villa and in Marie-Laure’s boudoir in their Paris home.

Breuer first ventured into architecture in 1923, with his design for a small apartment block, and in 1925 he devised a single family dwelling in metal – das Kleinmetallhaus. Prefabricated from standardised industrial components, the window and door panels could be hung on a modular frame, allowing the house to be constructed in just three weeks. In 1927, he built prefabricated metal terraced houses for the young masters of the Bauhaus – by now relocated to Dessau and housed in the iconic building designed by Walter Gropius for which Breuer provided folding, tubular steel theatre seating, dining tables and stools for the canteen – including himself, Josef Albers, Hannes Meyer, Herbert Bayer, Otto Meyer-Ottens and Joost Schmidt. The Harnischmacher House (destroyed in WWII), which Breuer was commissioned to design for a rich, private client in Wiesbaden, Germany, in 1932, shows influences from Le Corbusier, whom he had met in Paris some years before.

By 1932 Breuer was creating furniture from aluminum which was to win international competition in Paris. Invited by Gropius, who was already there, he emigrated to London in 1935, becoming involved with him at the Isokon Furniture Company, for which Breuer produced a number of designs in plywood. He continued to experiment with plywood construction after moving to the United States in 1937, where he and Gropius – who had gone there before him – formed a joint studio. However, during the 1940s the two fell out.

Breuer was teaching at Harvard and had built a house for himself in Lincoln, Massachusetts, in 1939. In between designing several private homes, and two further ones for himself, he was set to embark on an epic architectural journey that would see him building an abbey, a convent, and auditoriums for various universities. In the Netherlands, he built a large department store in Rotterdam and the American Embassy at the Hague. He was chosen to design the UNESCO headquarters in Paris (with Pier Luigi Nervi and Bernard Zehrfuss, inaugurated 1958), and in 1960, designed the IBM Research Center in la Gaude, France. He went on to create New York’s Whitney Museum (inaugurated 1966, with Hamilton Smith) and, before his retirement in 1977, he had built the aforementioned ski resort, set up Marcel Breuer Associates in Paris, been involved in numerous important projects, buildings, administrative complexes, large company headquarters, universities, banks, dams, as well as urban housing (ZUP de Bayonne).

Shortly after Breuer’s death in 1981, Furnitures and Interiors, a retrospective exhibition opened at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Robert Gatje and Marion Jossa, who joined Breuer’s New York-based studio in 1953 and 1963 respectively, will be present at the Villa Noailles conference.

Images from top
Zinc plated steel and wood lounge chair
Made by Embru, distributed by Wohnbedarf, 1932
Galerie Mandalian-Paillard
Photo Lothaire Hucki, Villa Noailles

IBM La Gaude, Building 1, 1962
Frontage and supports
Photo Guillemaut, property of MBA

Five B10 tables, Nickel plated steel. Black laminated wood top
Made by Thonet, circa 1927
Galerie Mandalian-Paillard
Photo Stéphane Briolant

Ecumenical chapel, 1974, Flaine ski resort
Photo Guillemaut, property of MBA

Lounge chair
Made by Isokon, 1936
Marc Hotermans and Galerie Mandalian-Paillard collections
Photo Lothaire Hucki, Villa Noailles

Marcel Breuer in his third house,
New Canaan, Connecticut, circa 1975
Photo Knoll International

B3 / Wassily armchair
Nickel plated metal, Eisengarn fabric
Made by Thonet, 1931-32
Galerie Mandalian-Paillard
B9 table (variation)
Made by Standard-Möbel, circa 1927
Marc Hotermans collection
Photo Lothaire Hucki, Villa Noailles

B3 ‘Wassily’ armchair and B9 nested tables
in the vicomte’s outdoor bedroom at Villa Noailles
Photo Thérèse Bonney, published in Art & Décoration, August 1928
Villa Noailles collection

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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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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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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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Architecture | Design | Objects des Architects

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

Arts Décoratifs du XXe siècle & Design Contemporain
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

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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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Design | Century of the Child

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900–2000
Museum of Modern Art, NYC, USA
29th July – 5th November, 2012

Century of the Child is a large-scale overview of the modernist preoccupation with children and childhood as a paradigm for progressive design thinking. The rather grown up headings for the seven sections into which MoMA’s new exhibition is divided: New Century, New Child, New Art; Avant-garde Playtime; Light, Air, Health; Children and the Body Politic; Power Play; Designing Better Worlds, are clues to the organisers’ ambitious attempt to examine and make sense of the complex and often contradictory ideas about the place of children in the modern era and the role that 20th century designers, architects and artists have played – and that others over the course of the 21st century might play – in relation to it.
As early as 1900, Swedish design reformer and social theorist Ellen Key published Century of the Child, a manifesto for change – social, political, aesthetic, and psychological – that presented the universal rights and well-being of children as the defining mission of the century to come. The exhibition examines individual and collective visions for the material world of children, from utopian dreams for the citizens of the future to the dark realities of political conflict and exploitation. In this period children have been central to the concerns, ambitions, and activities of modern architects and designers, and working specifically for children has often provided unique freedom and creativity to the avant-garde.

On show are a range of over 500 items – 2D and 3D, large and small – including examples of toys, games, animation, clothing, safety equipment and therapeutic products, nurseries, furniture, books,
playgrounds and school architecture.

Among the early featured items are Alma Siedhoff-Buscher’s Bauhaus nursery furniture, puppets by Sophie Taeuber-Arp. There’s a high chair by Gerrit Rietveld;
a glass, child-sized desk designed by Gio Ponti in 1930 and children’s chairs by Marcel Breuer and Alvar Aalto. Brightly coloured wooden teaching materials commissioned by Maria Montessori in the 1920s are also included. El Lissitzky’s Tale of 2 Squares and Roald Dahl’s The Gremlins 1943 – his first children’s book written for Walt Disney Productions appear, as well as Aleksandr Rodchenko’s poignant photograph, Pioneer Girl 1930.

Examples from the immediate post World War II, baby boom, years illustrate a new focus on less formal school environments and well-designed, safe and non-violent toys. In the aftermath of brutality and devastation, working closely with child psychologists, manufactures and educators, many designers sought to recover a lost innocence embodied in the spontaneity and directness of children’s art, and to emulate the constructive impulse of children’s play. Charles and Ray Eames in California, the influential CoBrA artists in Amsterdam – founded in 1948, who painted directly and spontaneously, like children, and worked expressively, without a preconceived plan – and the 1950s’ Independent Group in London, all epitomized this preoccupation with the child and of trying to look at the world from their perspective. In addition to works by these designers and artists, a school desk by Jean Prouvé is included as well as Lego building blocks, the helical spring toy Slinky and a selection of wooden toys by the Swedish company Brio.

The 1960s through to the end of the 20th century is a period in which children and consumer culture exerted power over each other. Through showing examples of Soviet Bloc space toys alongside Peter Ellenshaw’s 1954 plan of Disneyland, and plastic and inflatable toys by the Czechoslovakian designer Libuše Niklová, the exhibition considers the concept of the child as an autonomous consumer.

In the digital age children often surpass adults’ command of innovative design development in the realms of computer games and communication. In contemporary Japan, a deep fascination with youth is manifested by young girls shaping their identities through fashion, accessories, creative products, comic book and animated heroes. They process the images and text of material culture and mass media in their own ways, often naïvely but sometimes in active subversion of intended meanings and purposes.

Heralding a pronounced progressive or idealistic philosophy, the exhibition curators, in using examples of toys designed and handcrafted by children in a South African village; Jukka Veistola’s UNICEF poster from 1969; the XO laptop from the One Laptop per Child program; Marimekko clothing and do-it-yourself toys and Isamu Noguchi designs for play equipment and his – ridiculed at the time – Riverside Park Playground of 1933, attempt to communicate to us and children that children deserve a better world, and that through passionate public discourse among educators, parents, and politicians, and of course through good design, this world might indeed be possible to achieve.

Images from top

Werner John, Swiss, born 1941
Kinder Verkehrs Garten, Children’s traffic garden.
Poster advertising a children’s traffic school, 1959
Lithograph, 129.5 x 91.4 cm, 51 x 36″.
Printed by Allgemeine Gewerbeschule, Basel.
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Architecture and Design Purchase Fund

Helen + Hard AS, Norwegian, established 1996,
Siv Helene Stangeland, Norwegian, born 1966,
Reinhard Kropf, Austrian, born 1967
Geopark, Stavanger, Norway, 2011

Photograph by Emile Ashley. Courtesy of the Architects

Omnibot 2000, remote-controlled robot, c 1985
61 x 38.1 x 35.6 cm, 24 x 15 x 14″.
Manufactured by Tomy (formerly Tomiyama),
Katsushika, Tokyo, Japan.
Space Age Museum/Kleeman Family Collection,
Litchfield, Connecticut, USA

Elizawieta Ignatowitsch, Russian, 1903-1983
The Fight for the Polytechnic Schools is the
Fight for the Five-Year Plan, and for a
Communist Education of the body politic, 1931
Letterpress, lithograph, 51.4 x 71.8 cm, 20 1/4 x 28 1/4″.
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Gift of Miss Jessie Rosenfeld

Ladislav Sutnar, American, born Bohemia,
now Czech Republic, 1897-1976
Build the Town building blocks, 1940-43
Painted wood, thirty pieces of various dimensions,
largest smokestack: 18.7 x 5.1 cm, 7 3/8 x 2″.
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Gift of Ctislav Sutnar and Radoslav Sutnar

Gerrit Rietveld, Dutch, 1888-1964
Child’s wheelbarrow, 1923
Manufactured 1958.

Painted wood, 31.8 x 28.9 x 85.1 cm,
12 1/2 x 11 3/8 x 33 1/2″.
Manufactured by Gerard van de Groenekan.
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Gift of Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder.
© 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS),
New York / Beeldrecht, Amsterdam

Jukka Veistola, Finnish, born 1946
UNICEF poster, 1969
Offset lithograph, 100.3 x 69.9 cm, 39 1/2 x 27 1/2″.
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Gift of the designer

Jean Prouvé, French, 1901-1984
School desk, 1946
Enameled steel and oak,
72.4 x 114.3 x 86.4 cm, 28 1/2 x 45 x 34″.
Manufactured by Ateliers Jean Prouvé, Nancy
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Dorothy Cullman Purchase Fund

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Design & Architecture | George Nakashima

Friday, June 8th, 2012

Important 20th Century Design
Sotheby’s, New York, USA. 13th June, 2012
Important 20th Century Decorative Art & Design
Christie’s, New York, USA. 14th June, 2012
20th/21st Century Design Auction
Rago, New Jersey, USA. June 16th & 17th, 2012

Previews for all the above start 9th June

Rather oddly, because designers and architects in the UK are pretty well-informed about modernism and modernists in general, the name George Nakashima, rarely comes up. Indeed, London’s Design Museum design library has no listing for him. A search on the website of the Royal Institute of British Architects, which is far from the parochial organisation its name might suggest, bore no fruit, however, the Victoria & Albert Museum has a single, fine, though rather modest, 1956 Nakashima chair in its collection.

A rare aluminium chair – one of only four ever produced – is the centre-piece of an historic collection of seven items of furniture designed by Gerrit Rietveld, going under the hammer at Sotheby’s, New York. Also in this relatively small sale, comprising just 68 lots, is an equally rare Tiffany Studios Dragonfly table lamp, along with interior stained glass windows by Frank Lloyd Wright, a Josef Hoffman bentwood Sitzmaschine, an Archibald Knox ‘Tudric’ pewter champagne bucket, a Fish lamp designed by Frank Gehry in 1983, and 13 separate lots – some comprising single pieces – all by George Nakashima.

Four Nakashima items appear amongst a total of 134 lots on the listing for Christie’s Important 20th Century Decorative Art & Design sale, the next day.

Just a few days later, across the Hudson River and dwarfing the Sotheby’s and Christie’s sales, New Jersey auction house Rago, in a 2 -day, weekend sale, is offering a total of 1,100 lots. Sunday, the second day is all about modern furniture and lighting with items from a long list of iconic names, among many others: Arne Jacobsen, Charles & Ray Eames, Florence Knoll, Frank Gehry, George Nelson, Gio Ponti, Hans Wegner, Isamu Noguchi, Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, Poul Kjaerholm, Shiro Kuramata, Wendell Castle and once again, George Nakashima, who is represented by 31 separate lots.

Assuming you are in funds – these would have to be plentiful, average lot prices range from around $6,000 to around $200,000 – with the possibility of acquiring a total of 48 lots of Nakashima items, should you be thinking about starting your own collection of his furniture, now’s your chance!

On the other hand you might ask: who is George Nakashima (1905-1990)? He is simply a very interesting and important figure in 20th design. On a farmlike compound near New Hope, Pennsylvania, Nakashima, his family, and fellow wood-workers created exquisite furniture from richly grained, rare timber: tables, desks, chairs, and cabinets to grace the homes and executive boardrooms of the likes of the late Nelson Rockefeller, Columbia University and the International Paper Corporation.

Born in the shadow of the USA’s Mount Olympus, in Spokane, Washington State, across the Puget Sound from Seattle, Japanese-American Nakashima grew up in the forests of the remote Olympic Peninsula – largely unmapped until 1900. After studying first forestry then architecture in Washington, in 1930 he received a Master’s from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. However, in 1928, he had won the Prix Fontainebleau from L’Ecole Americaine des Beaux Arts in France and, after a brief time working as a mural painter on Long Island, decided to spend time in Paris before launching himself on a journey that took him to Japan. In Tokyo he found work with Czech-born Antonin Raymond, who had set up an office there. Raymond had emigrated to the United States in 1916, where he had assisted Frank Lloyd-Wright. His buildings in Japan reveal that his understanding of and respect for Japanese tradition informed his modernist sensibility. Raymond, was to prove a strong influence on his young assistant, Nakashima, as was Sri Aurobindo, the philosopher, yogi, guru, and poet, who he would encounter in Pondicherry, India, where George was the onsite architect for the first reinforced concrete building in the country. When war broke out Nakashima returned to the States, where he and his family were incarcerated at Minidoka, Idaho. He was released in 1943 with the help of his former employer Raymond and for a period worked on his ranch.

In India Nakashima had begun to find ways of working with wood and with his new-found philosophy developed ‘…a devotion to discovering the inherent beauty of wood so that noble trees might have a second life as furniture’. While in the internment camp he learned woodworking from a Japanese carpenter and left with the firm intention of establishing a woodworking studio, which he soon after accomplished at New Hope, Pennsylvania. The studio went on to become a huge success, employing some of the world’s finest craftsmen and producing unique and outstanding, highly-collectable, modern furniture. Among many awards from prestigious institutions, Nakashima received the Third Order of the Sacred Treasure from the Emperor and Government of Japan in 1983 in recognition of the cultural exchange generated by the shows he produced in Japan from 1968-1988. His work was widely exhibited, however, the late 1980s retrospective Full Circle, which opened at the American Craft Museum in New York, was to be his last.

Mira Nakashima-Yarnall, George’s daughter, has been creative director of the Nakashima studio since 1990, which continues to produce her father’s classic furniture designs and to produce her own work as well. She lives with her family at the studio compound in New Hope.

I wonder what’s going on though, because even more oddly, George Nakashima, who designed furniture for Knoll, isn’t listed on the MoMA on-line index, either.

Images from top
George Nakashima bending wood, 1940s

Conoid Bench, circa 1974
From the Japanese House, The Mr. and Mrs. Nelson A. Rockefeller Residence, Pocantico Hills, New York, circa 1974. American black walnut and hickory with one East Indian rosewood key
Sotheby’s estimate $150/200,000

Interior of the Conoid Studio at New Hope, circa 1960

Fine turned-leg dining table, 1958
English walnut, black walnut, rosewood, brass label
From a private collection
Rago estimate $35,000 – $45,000

The Minguren Museum
(Arts Building) from the Cloister at New Hope, which
was originally dedicated to showing artist, Ben Shahn’s work. Unfortunately he died in 1969, shortly after his inaugural exhibition here. Cloister guest rooms were a manifestation of Nakashima’s devotion to the monastic tradition, however, they also house the heating unit, bathroom, kitchen, and storage space, which were not included in the larger building. A large rock at the far edge of the pond is said to have inspired Nakashima to erect this building here.

Long chair, circa 1974
Executed specifically for the Japanese House of Governor and Mrs. Nelson A. Rockefeller, designed by Junzo Yoshimura. Walnut with cotton webbing.
Christie’s estimate 30,000 – 50,000 U.S. dollars

Walnut dresser, 1962
From a private collection
Rago estimate $6,000 – $9,000

All furniture images, courtesy of the respective auction houses. All other images, courtesy of George Nakashima, SA, or George Nakashima Archive. Special thanks to Soomi Hahn Amagasu for her help with this blog post

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Look out for The Blog’s posts on art, architecture, gardens, books, design and anything else that interests me and I think might interest you
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