Posts Tagged ‘Gio Ponti’

Design | Everything Ponti

Friday, October 12th, 2018

Pirelli Tower,
© DR

Tutto Ponti,
Gio Ponti Archi-Designer
Musée des Arts Décoratifs
Paris | France
19 October 2018 >
10 February 2019

Living Room at Villa
Planchart, Caracas, 1957
Photo Antoine Baralhe.
Fondation Anala
et Armando Planchart

In Italian, Gio Ponti’s surname, means, appropriately, ‘bridges’. Over the course of a career that spanned more than 50 years, during which time he became the most important and influential designer/architect in Italy, his talents traversed everything from glassware design to ceramics; he created chairs, lighting, fabrics and cutlery, screenplays for cinema, as well as stage sets and costumes for La Scala. He established his architecture practice in 1921 and built private villas in Paris (1926), Eindhoven and Caracas (Villa Planchart 1953 > 1957), company headquarters, such as Milan’s landmark Pirelli Tower (1957) – at 127 metres, Europe’s tallest building at the time, that was a symbol of Italy’s post-war ‘miracolo’ reconstruction period – and public buildings, including Taranto cathedral (1970) in southern Italy and the Denver Art Museum (1974).

La Cornuta coffee
machine for Pavoni, 1948
© Photo Gio Ponti
Archives, Milan

Glass lamp 0024, 1933
© Photo Gio Ponti
Archives, Milan

Superleggera 699,
for Cassina, 1957
© Photo Gio Ponti
Archives, Milan

Drawing his earliest influences from the Venetian villas of Andrea Palladio, Ponti celebrated the machine but, unlike many 20th century modernists, never rejected classicism and craftsmanship. In collaboration with his protogeé, Piero Fornasetti, he took pleasure in creating decorated furniture designs flouting modernist conventions that dictated the abolition of applied ornament. An enemy of dogma, whose work never conformed to any particular ‘ism’, Ponti’s tenet was that styles corrupt and [if we conform to them] our ideas become corrupt themselves.

His design and architecture became synonymous with Italian ‘cool’ of the 1950s and 1960s. He was the designer behind Pavoni’s iconic La Cornuta coffee machine (1948) that would dominate the bars of cafés throughout Italy, in London and in New York, where customers might also find themselves sitting on one of his Superleggera – ‘super-light’ – chairs (1957).

Taranto cathedral,
1964 > 1970
Photo Luca Massari

While Gio Ponti’s work is admired today by enlightened design enthusiasts and highly coveted by collectors it remains little known in France. Despite the big Gio Ponti exhibition held at London’s Design Museum in 2002, the situation in the UK is similar. Including some 400 items, as its title suggests, Tutto Ponti, Gio Ponti Archi-Designer at Musée des Arts Décoratifs, is a major retrospective exhibition, bridging every aspect of Ponti’s multi-faceted career, with the aim of introducing the wider public to the work of this creative genius of the Italian design scene.

All images courtesy Musée des Arts Décoratifs

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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 made available 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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Design | Italy in Paris

Friday, April 4th, 2014

Osvaldo Borsani
Model at16 coatstand
in leather, brass and walnut
Produced by Tecno, 1961
Est €6,000 > 8,000

Italian Design
PIASA Rive Gauche
Paris | France
Exhibition: 10th April > 14th April 2014
Sale: 15th April 2014

In the 1980s London fell in love with design. It was cool to kit out your home with slick and beautifully made contemporary Italian furniture and lighting from Zeev Aram and newly-established shops, such as Atrium, and The London Lighting Company. From its launch in 1983, the names of architects and designers Vico Magistretti, Achille Castiglioni, as well as that of Ettore Sotsass, figured regularly and prominently in the British magazine Blueprint. At about the same time, and although I and other like-minded Londoners spoke no Italian, we began subscribing to, and each month poring over, great-looking Italian architecture and design magazines. Domus was one, Abitare another – the latter art directed and edited by the legendary Italo Lupi (former art director of Domus) in which the work of the designers mentioned above would also feature, alongside that of Carlo Mollino, Gio Ponti (Domus’s founder) and Piero Fornasetti – each still relevant but more representative of an earlier era. However the list of lots in PIASA Rive Gauche’s forthcoming auction, reveals other important Italian figures, who are perhaps less familiar, or were lost in translation, and also includes anonymous pieces.

After training as an architect and designer, Osvaldo Borsani (1911 >1985), see image top, joined the family furniture-making business Atelier Varedo (later Arredamento Borsani). Very prolific as a designer of storage furniture and seating, in 1953 with his brother Fulgencio, Osvaldo founded the technology based company, Tecno, which still exists and is a well-known producer of innovative furniture for offices and public buildings.

Unknown designer
Sofa in wool and brass, c 1950
Est €18,000 > 25,000

Ico Parisi
Suite of six chairs
in painted wood
and leatherette
c 1955
Est €6,000 > 9,000

Ico Parisi’s (1916 > 1996) style epitomised the modern Italian look of the 1950s. Trained as architect, he spent time in the 1930s as a film-maker and went on to design everything from interiors to jewellery, sometimes working with his wife, Luisa, a former student of Gio Ponti.

Pucci de Rossi
Rocking chair
in steel, prototype, 2001
Est €10,000 > 15,000

Born in Verona, Italy, artist, sculptor and designer, de Rossi (1947 > 2013) lived and worked in Paris from 1979. Post-modern by nature, rather than producing useful functional objects and furniture, he sought to imbue his creations with imagination, humour and irony.

Trolley in metal and wood
One-off piece, designed for a
Milanese apartment, 1959
Est €4,000 > 6,000

Set up in Milan in 1932, BBPR was a studio of modern movement architects, planners and designers, composed of Gian Luigi Banfi, Ludovico Barbiato di Belgiojoso, Enrico Peressutti and Ernesto Nathan Rogers, who were responsible for the post World War II reconstruction of the city. They produced chair designs for Arflex – now back in production – and BBPR’s Olivetti showroom on Fifth Avenue, New York City (1954), is regarded as among the most innovative small-scale projects of the period.

Pierre Cardin
Table lamp in metal and glass
Produced by Venini c1970
Est €3,000 > 4,000

Significantly, because the Italian approach to production of furniture and lighting has always been crafts-based – which attracted designers from around the world to produce work for or with Italian companies – the PIASA Rive Gauche Italian Design sale features pieces by non-Italians, including, appropriately – it taking place in Paris – Frenchman Pierre Cardin (1922 >), who happens to have been born in Italy.

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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 | Gio Ponti: Surface & Light

Friday, December 20th, 2013

Giving Warmth to The Building’s Skin
– The World of Gio Ponti, Father of Modern Italian Design
Inax Museums (Lixil Group), Tokoname, Japan
Until 18th March, 2014

A now-famous photograph of Gio Ponti’s super-light Superleggera chair, held up in the air with a single finger by a female model, appeared in a 1952 edition of Domus magazine. The chair itself (second exhibition picture, below) and the way it was presented can be seen as symbolic of Ponti’s pursuit of the light and the slim in his design and architecture.

Earlier in his career, from 1923 to 1930, Gio Ponti (1891-1979) had worked at ceramics company Manifattura Ceramica Richard Ginori, in Milan and Sesto Fiorentino, where his life-long obsession with the interior and exterior skin of buildings was kindled. Under his strong influence the entire output of the company would dramatically change.

To communicate texture and character, seeking to add a tactile quality to his buildings, Ponti incorporated both handcrafted and machine-made ceramics. Torafu Architects, designers of the current exhibition, Giving Warmth to The Building’s Skin – The World of Gio Ponti, Father of Modern Italian Design, at Inax Museums in pottery town, Tokaname, Japan, created a framework that gives an illusion of floating volumes, allowing for a sense of lightness, reflecting Ponti’s original aesthetic.

In the show, many of Ponti’s sketches and architectural drawings appear alongside items of his furniture, and, so that visitors can better experience his architectural style – with the full support of the Gio Ponti Archives (Milan) – Inax have reproduced many actual tiles to Ponti’s authentic designs.

Top: Balcony balustrade and decorative
floor tiles at the Gio Ponti-designed
Hotel Parco Dei Principi, Sorrento, Italy
©Pedro Silmon

Exhibition images: Daici Ano
Original sketch by Gio Ponti
©Gio Ponti Archives

Bottom: Gio Ponti-designed upholstered
version of the Superleggera chair
at the Hotel Parco Dei Principi
©Pedro Silmon

Exhibition images: Daici Ano

Original sketch by Gio Ponti
©Gio Ponti Archives

Exhibition curated by Kaoru Tashiro
Design: Torafu Architects
Sponsored by Lixil Corporation in special
cooperation with the Gio Ponti Archives

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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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Auction | Palm Beach Modern

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Paul McCobb wood and metal
shelving unit/table, made at Wichendon, USA

Estimate $1,000-2,000

Fine Art, Decorative Arts, & Modern Design
Palm Beach Modern Auctions
West Palm Beach, Florida, USA
30th November, 2013

Lenny Kravitz is on it. David Lynch is included. But Frank Ghery and Donald Judd don’t make it and very surprisingly, neither does Harry Bertoia. Of the remaining seventy-five American furniture designers listed on Wikipedia, work by only a handful: Charles and Ray Eames, George Nelson, Eero Saarinen, Isamu Noguchi, Frank Loyd Wright, Florence Knoll, and Marcel Breur – although we still think of him as Hungarian, or even German – regularly  come up in UK auctions. The same is probably true for the rest of Europe, which is as well served with British-designed modern and mid-century modern furniture, as we are with Dutch, French, Italian and German designers, plus, of course the work of the many and revered Scandinavians.

In the big New York sales at Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and at Rago in New Jersey, furniture from American designers like Wendel Castell and George Nakashima, regularly appear, but there are those that, even when their names do come up don’t ring more than vague bells with many of the UK’s modern furniture enthusiasts. Tomorrow’s Palm Beach Modern Auctions’ Fine Art, Decorative Arts, & Modern Design sale of 320 lots, includes items by many of those mentioned above, alongside a whole host of other talented American designers with perhaps less international reputations.

Pair of Gary Gutterman perspex stools on
wheels, manufactured by Gary Gutterman, USA

Estimate $500-750

Cabinet/dresser, attributed to Karl Springer, made
in the USA by Karl Springer Ltd, in wood and mirrored metal

Estimate $3,000-4,000

Milo Baughham wood and metal end
table, manufactured by the designer in the USA

Estimate $400-600

Pair of Ward Bennet ‘Sled’ stainless steel and
leather lounge chairs, made in the USA by Brickel Associates

Estimate $3,000-4,000

Travertine, wood and glass cabinet and wall-mounted cabinet
designed by Vladimir Kagan. Made in the USA by Kagan-Dreyfuss Inc

Estimate $3,500-5,000

The New York Times is quoted as having said that Vladimir Kagan is one of the most important furniture designers of the 20th century and that furniture designed by him in the 40s, 50s and 60s have become icons of modernity. Published in 2004, The Complete Kagan: Vladimir Kagan, A Lifetime of Avant-Garde Design, has a preface by Tom Ford, who is a fan. Originally German, born in 1927, Kagan emigrated to the United States in 1938, studying architecture in New York, before opening his first shop there in 1949. His early work included furniture for the Delegate’s Cocktail Lounge at the United Nations and furniture for the ‘Monsanto House of the Future’ displayed at Disneyland from 1957 to 1967. London’s V&A, the Vitra Design Museum and Die Neue Sammlung in Germany all have items of his work in their permanent collections.

Another German émigré Karl Springer, born 1931, who moved to New York in 1957, began his career as a bookbinder, establishing a furniture workshop in Manhattan in the early 60s. By the 1980s there were Karl Springer Showrooms in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Munich and Tokyo. For his bold statement, luxury pieces based on Art Deco, Chinese and Bauhaus styles, made in wood, perspex or plexiglas (called lucite in the US), and mirrored metals, Springer demanded the highest level of materials and delivered high quality craftsmanship.

Gary Gutterman, who formed Axius Designs Inc in 1971, in New York, with Leigh Hammond, made futuristic pieces in stainless steel, glass and perspex.

The much-copied Planner Group furniture by Paul McCobb (1917-1969) was in continuous production at Winchendon, Massachusetts from 1949-1964 and is regarded as one of the best selling collections of the 1950s. From 1950 to 1955, the designer won five Musem of Modern Art Good Design Awards. As well as designing furniture, McCobb produced a wide range of items including textiles, wallpaper, lighting, dinnerware and radios.

‘Writing chair’ in wood and and cane, designed
and manufactured by Pierre Jeanneret in France and India

Estimate $2,000-2,500

Cabinet (in the manner of) Raymond Loewy,
made in Canada by Treco, in plastic, rosewood and metal

Estimate $800-1,200

Mahogany Frank Lloyd Wright-designed
cabinet, made in the USA by Heritage Henredon

Estimate $3,000-4,000

Milo Baughman defined modern design as ‘elegant yet accessible’. Influenced by the engineering and functional ideas developed at the Bauhaus, he fused them with midcentury-modern explorations of materials, earning himself many major manufacturing contracts. Baughman’s wood-panelled Tuxedo Sofa was the inspiration for one gracing Don Draper’s office in the TV drama Mad Men.

Ward Bennett (1917-2003) designed more than 150 chairs, many of which have become classics and can found in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art and Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. Quitting school at thirteen to work in New York’s garment district, at fifteen he designed his first fashion collection. The following year he set off for Europe, where he studied at art schools in Paris and Florence. Mostly self-taught, his skills ranged from illustration, sculpture, and jewellery-making to furniture, and interiors. Returning to New York and quickly developing a reputation for his high-end furniture designs after, his client list included: David Rockefeller, the Chase Manhattan Bank, Tiffany & Co, Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner, and would also work for Italian industrialist Gianni Agnelli. Bennett is considered to be the first American furniture designer to use industrial materials, in his designs for furniture – well in advance of the 1970s fad for hi-tech products.

Furniture by globally-famous, American design heroes, Frank Loyd Wright and Raymond Loewy, are rare sights in Europe. Both are represented in the Palm Beach Modern sale, along with, among others, the great Italian, Gio Ponti, and important French designers, Boris Tabakoff, Piere Paulin and Jean Royere, as well as Swiss maker Pierre Jeanneret (cousin of the more famous Le Corbusier).

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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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Photography | Gio Ponti’s Photographer, Giorgio Casali

Sunday, May 5th, 2013

Giorgio Casali: Photographer / Domus 1951-1983
Architecture, Design and Art in Italy
Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, London, UK
22nd May, 2013 – 8th September, 2013

Italian Photographer Giorgio Casali’s (1913-1995) career took off in the 1950s when he wittily photographed Gio Ponti’s iconic super-light Superleggera chair, held up in the air with a single finger by a female model, for Domus magazine. Architect and universal talent, Ponti, founder and sometime editor of italy’s famous and very influential mid-century style bible loved the photographer’s joke, which marked the start of a collaborative relationship between the two that would endure for 30 years.

Defined by their economy, elegance and, where appropriate, playfulness, Casali’s photographs reveal his skill in presenting his subject – object or building – to its best advantage.

The images on show in Giorgio Casali: Photographer / Domus 1951-1983 at London’s Estorick Collection, span some 40 years of the photographer’s career and range from architecture – Ponti’s elegant Torre Pirelli (Milan, 1956) and Taranto Cathedral (1971) – to photographs of two celebrated lamps designed by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni – Arco (1962), pictured above, and Ipotenusa (1975). They bear witness to the extraordinary explosion of creative energy and innovation in post World War II Italian culture, making this exhibition of interest not only to designers and architects but also to anyone who recognises the power of the photographic image to capture the essence of an era.

Images from top
Office complex for Editoriale Domus in Rozzano,
designed by Studio DA and Studio Ponti, Fornaroli, Rosselli, 1971
Digital print on aluminium

Superleggera chair, designed by Gio Ponti, 1952
Manufactured by Cassina
Digital print on aluminium

View from inside an apartment in Florence, designed
by Gae Aulenti, 1971
Digital print on aluminium

Arco lamp, designed by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, 1962
Manufactured by Flos
Digital print on aluminium

Photos Università IUAV di Venezia – Archivio Progetti, Fondo Giorgio Casali

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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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Hotel Gio Ponti

Friday, April 1st, 2011

Parco dei Principi
Sorrento, Italy

A few years ago, on a writing and photographic assignment for The Condé Nast Traveller, the magazine had booked me into the Parco dei Principi in Sorrento on the Bay of Naples. I had never stayed in any other hotel where each of the plants and exotic collection of trees in the garden were labelled in Latin. The hotel had more surprises – the biggest being that it was/is a 1962 design classic by legendary Italian creative genius, Gio Ponti. Like a latter-day Philippe Starck, while Ponti was the architect, he was also responsible for the design of every item of furniture, the ceramic floor tiles in the many rooms – each has a different variation on the same blue and white theme – the shell and pebble murals and the white, angular, animalesque diving platform that juts out over the angular, blue swimming pool.

Between treks off to photograph gardens on Capri, Ischia and at Ravello above the Amalfi coast, I took a few snapshots around the hotel. The opening piece in the Traveller’s current, April issue, Where to stay section, is illustrated by one of my Parco dei Principe images. A print was made for them, while the others above are a selection of unretouched, scanned contact prints.

Visited the hotel?
Anything interesting to say about Gio Ponti?
Any impressions of the many gardens in this area?

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