Posts Tagged ‘John Pawson’

Books | Cosy Contemporary – Maximising on Minimal

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

Living room with wide wood floorboards, minimal
cantilevered shelf and Eames rocker in a home in Barcelona

The Monocle Guide
to Cosy Homes

By Monocle
Published by Gestalten
402 pp, full color
Clothbound hardcover
Text in English
Available now

Monumental Mies van der Rohe-style architecture in São Paulo
softened with wood furniture, a large rug and soft lighting

I can lay claim to being the first person ever to tell the architect John Pawson – in about 1988, before he was world famous, but was nevertheless well-known amongst the London design and architecture cognoscenti for his minimal approach – that any of his interiors felt cosy.

It was the first house Pawson had adapted for himself and his family to live in – pictures of which are rarely seen now – that we were photographing for a main feature in The Sunday Times Magazine. Invited to have a look around before a group of friends would arrive for a casual supper to which I was welcome, I had got there at about five-thirty. John led me past his signature, geometric wood staircase that due to the gaps he used in his treatment of the edges appeared to float. Via the main living area – two rooms knocked together to create one making the interior of the relatively small house less cramped than it was originally – he took me through the white kitchen. Nothing cluttered up or was even visible on the long, wide work surfaces. Sliding open a drawer with his fingertips – there was no handle – he showed me his ingenious built-in and very sensible system, designed to keep the assorted implements necessary for cooking, tidy and accessible. Outside, down a few steps were a lawn and a single, elegantly-shaped tree, probably birch. To a height of about two metres above the white-painted end and two side walls, all about two metres high, tennis-court-style chain-link fencing had been erected, up and across which climbing plants – evergreen, all the same – were trained, so that nothing but sky was visible above them.

It must have been either early or late on in the year, when it starts to get dark round about six o’clock, and having been shown the little niches built into the floor-to-ceiling bedhead upstairs, where money, watches, etc might be deposited so as to remain out of sight, I paid a quick visit to the bathroom with its deep, square wooden tub – the toilet, which at first I was at a loss to locate, hidden beneath a lidded wooden bench. I re-joined John in the pristine, white space of the living/dining room with its wide-boarded wooden floor, plain white blinds that he had contrived to open from the bottom, that were drawn halfway up for privacy, and just enough to mask out any intrusive views of the outside. Other than a wooden dining table and (I think) two wooden benches, there was no freestanding furniture. Half a dozen floor-to-ceiling panels along the greater part of one side, were closets, containing anything from store-cupboard items such as tinned food, to a television that could only be watched if the door of the particular cupboard in which it was located was kept open. There were other benches built into the alcoves on either side of the chimney-breast, in the simple square aperture of which a (wood?) fire was ablaze…

Stockholm interior shot through simple square windows with cushions,
dog, blazing fire, plants and lanterns – all the elements of cosiness in place

That was a long time ago and long before Canadian journalist, entrepreneur, and magazine publisher Tyler Brûlé launched Wallpaper*, the style and fashion magazine, in 1996, at a time when minimalism, in terms of global interior design and architecture was at its zenith, John Pawson having been commissioned to design the Calvin Klein Collections Store, New York, completed in 1995. Not long afterwards, French design diva, Andrée Putman (1925 > 2013) would be quoted as saying: ‘Minimalism in interior design has become a caricature. Everywhere you find shops or hotels with an ambience that makes you feel like you are in a refrigerator.’ She could easily have made the same observations about some minimalist-inspired homes. In 2007, having left Wallpaper* in 2002, Brûlé launched Monocle, which carries the tag-line ‘A briefing on global affairs, business, culture and design.’ Monocle also has a website, a 24-hour radio station and a shop, and publishes various other spin-offs including books. Published by Gestalten, the latest of these is The Monocle Guide to Cosy Homes.

The book’s unobtrusive format and simple typographic clothbound cover dispenses with the more usual, but unnecessary paper wrapper, and is a cosy coral pink. Inside, the pages are laid out in a manner consistent with Monocle magazine, however the book is constructed as a manual. At the front, essays by such design luminaries as Ilse Crawford, Terence Woodgate and Stephen Bailey appear alongside The River Café’s Ruth Rogers‘ description of the perfect kitchen, while a section called The Directory, at the back, shows how best to plan your kitchen, as well suggesting cosy places to live wherever you happen to be in the world, and offers craftsmen and retailers for your consideration.

Practical arrangements for ‘the most important room in the house’.
Another spread suggests cosy arrangement for seating in the living area

Functional, fold-away Le Corbusier-influenced and
approved kitchen, by Janette Laverrière for a Paris apartment

As unlikely as it may seem, the minimal modernist aesthetic, sometimes visible, often obscured, provides the unlikely framework on which The Monocle Guide to Cosy Homes comfortably sits. Albeit every example shown is contemporary, the influences of early modernists such as Adolph Loos, Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe – all of whom continue to influence the work of such minimalists as John Pawson and David Chipperfield, neither of whose work, understandably, is included – is not difficult to spot. Much of the furniture, too, is either first generation modernists like Alvar Aalto, or second generation / post war modernists, such as Arne Jacobsen, Charles and Ray Eames, and Hans Wenger, all of whose pieces might be chosen as sculptural accessories for a minimal interior. While fake ‘vintage’ will never have lasting value, the sense of history inherent in patina is important; in his introduction Brûlé tells us that ‘a few dents and scratches only make them [our homes] better.’ What is uncovered by this book is that we’ve learned from modernism – and minimalism which was one development from it – that a little less can be a lot more. Uncontrolled clutter remains a no-no – we need to keep our houses in reasonable order – but it’s fine to put some pictures up and to scatter a few cushions about. It’s important to remember that people make and live in homes and unlike the majority of books and magazines about the subject, this one shows quite a lot of them.

…By now John’s wife, Catherine, had come home and we were introduced. As the fire started to glow, candles were lit and the whiteness of the walls glowed a soft golden yellow. The bunch of friends arrived all at the same time. Conversation filled the room. Wine was poured from the big 1.5 litre bottles John preferred, and very soon we were all sitting at the table enjoying a simple cosy supper.

Photographs of the book pages by Pedro Silmon

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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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Exhibition | The Architecture of Fashion

Friday, February 20th, 2015

Tour LVMH, Manhattan, New York,
by Atelier Christian de Portzamparc, 1995 > 1999

Photo © Atelier Christian de Portzamparc

Six architects for fashion
Villa Noailles
Hyères | France
22 February > 22 March 2015

Mobile Art by Zaha Hadid Architects for Chanel 2008
Top, in Hong Kong, above, in New York
Photos © François Lacour

The Mobile Art Chanel Contemporary Art Container – to give it its full title – Karl Lagerfeld and Zaha Hadid’s touring pavilion, was conceived in 2007 when the design magazine Wallpaper* got the unlikely couple together for a photo shoot. Making its first appearance in Hong Kong in March 2008, the travelling pavilion, showcasing the work of twenty leading international artists, each inspired by Chanel’s quilted 2.55 bag, visited Tokyo and New York before it was given a permanent home in 2011 at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris – designed, incidentally, by another famous architect, Jean Nouvel.

Beneath the heading, ‘Chanel, Hugo Boss, Rick Owens: Fashion’s Latest Muse Is Architecture’, in summer 2014, writer Nick Remsen explained on the website, ‘There’s a certain modishness – and beauty – in the urban blueprint, its pylons and crosswalks and anterooms rife for creative repurposing. I wasn’t particularly surprised, then, to see Karl Lagerfeld close his Emirati resort 2015 show via looks embellished with motifs of the world’s tallest building, the local Burj Khalifa [830m to tip].’ Soon afterwards, Lagerfeld showed Chanel’s fall 2014 couture collection, citing building materials, including concrete, as a inspiration, ‘Le Corbusier goes to Versailles!’ he told Vogue’s Hamish Bowles.

Remarkable and unique as it was, and remains, Mobile Art was not the first instance of a relationship between architecture and fashion, a phenomenon which dates as far back as the first decades of the 20th century – if not further – when opinionated, pioneering, Viennese functionalist architect, Adolf Loos (1870 > 1933), asserted that the naked woman is unattractive to man, and told the world that women dress and ornament themselves to appeal to man’s sickly sensuality. Fervent anti-ornamentalist, Loos, in his book Why a man should be well-dressed, didn’t confine his critical interest in fashion to women. The list of built works attributed to him includes an office building, several villas and houses, a café, a bar, and between 1910 and 1913 he designed the men’s haberdashery Kníže’s second floor, and later its shop front. Oddly, illustrating his story with amusing images of badly-dressed architects and their buildings, Hadley Freeman explained on The Guardian website, in 2008, that architects as a group ‘are just as style-conscious as fashion designers.’ On the other hand, in an interview on the Dezeen site last year, world-renowned Australian industrial designer Marc Newson, who has dabbled in architecture – Azzedine Alaia Boutique, Paris, 2006 – Qantas First Class Lounge, Sydney, 2007 – said, ‘Most industrial designers don’t have a clue about fashion… There’s never very successful crossovers, creatively.’ Putting the problem down to the ‘terrible snobbery’ between the two industries, Newson summed up by saying that the fashion industry was faster, more efficient and more in tune with contemporary culture than design and architecture.

Kris Van Assche Boutique, Paris, by Ciguë, 2013
Photo © Maris Mezulis

In London, Casablanca-born Joseph Ettedgui, who, with his family, established the Joseph brand and retail chain in 1972, achieved success through his ability to spot up-and-coming talent, working with many young designers and architects before they became famous. In the early years, well before the brand was sold and went global, Kenzo Takada, Margaret Howell, Katharine Hamnett, John Galliano and Azzedine Alaïa produced collections of clothes for Joseph, while Norman Foster, Eva Jiricná and Andrée Putman designed the company’s shops and restaurants.

Between 1993 and 1995, British architect John Pawson built the Calvin Klein Collections Store in New York, followed closely by the flagship Jigsaw Store in London. As Archie Juinio observed on the website, ‘Since the ‘90s important changes have taking place in the business strategies for fashion: big groups have bought prestigious fashion houses, while flagship stores have acquired an essential importance in marketing strategies. In this scenario, the architect is called upon and assumes a key role: he or she has to translate their ideas into tangible forms, underlining the brand’s values.’

Before she dedicated herself to the pursuit of stricter, modernist design and architectural ideals – which owed much to Loos and his many followers across Europe – Eileen Gray had designed the art deco front of her Paris furniture and home accessories shop, Jean Desert, in 1922, where wealthy avant-garde patrons Elsa Schiaparelli, and Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles, keen to experience a different kind of living, would congregate. The Noailles would commission architect Robert Mallet-Stephens to design their modernist Villa Noailles in Hyères, the venue for the forthcoming Archimode: Six architects for fashion exhibition, which includes, among others, Zaha Hadid’s Mobile Art for Chanel, Prada Transformer by Rem Koolhaas OMA in Séoul, and the Tour LVMH building by Christian de Portzamparc in New York. It also features work by less well-known contemporary architects, Diplomates, who designed the Boutique Damir Doma, as well as Ciguë’s Boutique Isabel Marant and Boutique Kris Van Assche.

Photos courtesy Villa Noailles

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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 whatsoever, fall due must be borne by the source supplier

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Interview | Philippe Garner on Aram on Kuramata

Friday, May 16th, 2014

Solaris, 1977
Set of drawers. Original production by Ishimaru Co Ltd.
Painted wood
with metal base in anodised aluminium.
Estimate €50,000 > 70,000

Mouth to Mouth Interview
Philippe Garner, Christie’s International Head of 20th Century
Decorative Art & Design interviews owner / manager of
the Aram Store, London, UK – established in 1964 –
Zeev Aram OBE

Born in Israel and having relocated to London in 1957 to study design, Zeev Aram opened an office and retail showroom in London’s King’s Road in 1964. It was the first in the UK to sell the work of iconic modern designers including Achille Castiglioni, Marcel Breuer, and Le Corbusier. Aram also holds the worldwide licence for Eileen Gray. Mostly gathered by him in 1981 on the occasion of the first exhibition dedicated to the Japanese designer Shiro Kuramata in Europe, the 19 pieces in the forthcoming sale at Christie’s in Paris come from Aram’s personal collection, where they have remained for more than 30 years

Philippe Garner | This packing list of the Shiro Kuramata pieces shipped from Tokyo to London in 1981 for your exhibition reminds me of how many years ago it was that you connected with him. How did you meet him?

Zeev Aram | I was introduced by a mutual friend, the architect John Pawson, who had been working in Japan. I met Kuramata when he came to London in 1980. Then I went to see him in Tokyo; we spent four days together. He was a wonderful host. We went to Kyoto and all over the place. And I chose whatever we should show; the exhibition was the result.

Was that his first showing in Europe?


And what sort of exposure had he already had in Japan?

Quite good but not enormous. People like Isozaki and Issey Miyake – the guys at the top of fashion, design, and architecture – knew of him because he was really exceptional, the way he designed things, especially interiors, the most fantastic interiors, which was unusual. On my visit to Tokyo, we went to a small, perfect sashimi bar he had created. It could only accommodate a very small number of people. It was so pure, a wonderful space.

Kuramata was received there like a God – in the nicest possible way. It was the same in Kyoto, because they don’t give private rooms so easily to people in these very old inns, with the Geishas serving you. So he was known, but within a certain community.

So it was within a relatively small, informed circle. He wasn’t a commercial success at that stage.

No, the bigger recognition came later. I have an invitation to his exhibition at the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art in 1996, fifteen years after my show.

So was your exhibition the most extensive exhibition of furniture that he had put on at that stage?

Abroad, certainly. It was anyway the first substantial one.

OBA-Q lamps, 1972
Set of drawers. Original production by Ishimaru Co Ltd.
Painted wood
with metal base in anodised aluminium.
Estimate €50,000 > 70,000

Furniture in irregular forms, side 1, 1970
Set of drawers. Original production by Aoshima Shoten Co Ltd.
Painted birch, Formica and aluminium, mounted on casters
Estimate €50,000 > 70,000

You have kept for over thirty years the majority of the pieces that you showed in 1981. Was it because you found no takers, and would you have staged it anyway, for the furniture’s sake, if you had realised it would not be a commercial success?

Was it a commercial exercise? In a roundabout way, like my initial interest in Eileen Gray. I took my chance, and I said I like it and if I like it, hopefully some people will like it. We re-ordered some pieces from Japan, but I knew that I could not produce these models. I rely on manufacturers and because of the complication of his designs I knew it would be horrendously expensive. Anyway, to give a short answer, my prime interest was in his designs and his products; we sold some, but by no means a significant quantity.

Did you then make the conscious decision that, having tried, enjoyed the experience, realised it wasn’t the right commercial moment, you were just going to put the collection out of sight?

Well, what also happened, unfortunately, is that he died. He died quite young, in 1991. He wrote me the most wonderful letter in 1988 – by then he allowed himself to call me Zeev; before that it was always ‘Dear Mr Aram’ He wrote, ‘In the oriental expression, you dug a well for me. I’m very grateful for your kind collaboration. The exhibition triggered a new book, with an essay by Ettore Sotsass. Interesting. My exhibition was well received.

So you had a good critical response. I love the reference here, ‘On show at Aram Designs is a collection of furniture… in the middle of the great Anglo-Japanese love affair which has been consuming London,’ The Architectural Review, September 1981. Do you have any particular favourites among the collection?

He had a period when he was obsessed with drawers. Then he produced the 49-drawer cabinet and I said, ‘This one is very odd.’ I could see the mathematical progression, because the diagonal is made of squares that change proportion sideways. And he said, ‘That’s the only way I could solve it to make it attractive. Every time we face drawers we decide what to put where, but in this instance the drawer also has a say, because if I want to put in a shirt here, I can’t, but if I want to put the pants, I can put, you know? So the size matters.’ So I say, ‘OK it’s very, very Zen and interesting,’ and we laughed.

But that was a period when he was really obsessed, literally obsessed with containers, drawers, and how we live our life in them. You put things [in them] from your own momentary intimacy, which are sometimes left there for years and it becomes a memory bank, a part of your biography. And we are not doing it consciously. We are just putting things in there and forgetting them.

So he invites the drawers themselves to play a part in the process?


Can you recall other interesting comments that he made?

Maybe I shouldn’t tell you this – I said, ‘Listen, the Japanese are so well known for joinery joints because of all the houses and beams so beautifully pieced together, almost like a puzzle, and they just put the peg in and the whole thing is held together, so how come the furniture, especially the drawers, [are] made in such an unusual way?’ And he said, ‘What do you mean, unusual?’ And I replied, ‘Well, we don’t do drawers like this, with nails and so on.’ And he asked, ‘Oh, how do you do it? At the exhibition opening, he was accompanied by three gentlemen, and they were the managing directors or the owners of the glassworks, the joinery, and the metalwork companies, respectively. And they came out of respect for him. In the evening when we prepared the layout, each of them had an apron on; they put them on over their beautiful suits, and they were handling the furniture. I said ‘My God, if these were Italians they would be stood a mile away.’ So he said, ‘Do me a favour; please see Mr Aoshima tomorrow.’ And I said ‘OK, “OK, but I’m not a joiner.’ And so we had this quick session the next day, when I went and showed him [Aoshima] how you use dovetails – he didn’t know what a dovetail was – though once I showed him he understood. Or secret dovetails, where you don’t show the ends. When it came to modern furniture they kept absolutely to the design but the details of manufacturing went back almost to model-making.

So what was visible was impeccable?


But I think the story is worth telling, because that’s what distinguishes your pieces from the later production pieces.

Yes, then of course there were the pieces produced by Cappellini, which people I suppose should know. The licensing to Cappellini came later, from 1987, but I don’t think Cappellini is doing it anymore.

Tell me about the 1985 ‘Homage to Hoffman’ chair

It’s very simple, the story is very simple. He considered Thonet to be one of the initiators of modern design and he knew that Joseph Hoffman designed the famous armchair for them. Not the coffee-house chair Model 14, which was the famous model, but this one. So he said, ‘Well, how can I somehow involve the spirit of Hoffman, pay homage to him, and at the same time tell everyone that this was the beginning of the beginning?’ So he took an original Thonet chair, wired it up and he set light to it. He incinerated it. Then he just polished it [the wire], that’s all.. And what remains is the wire, and just a trace of the original.

Where did this happen, where was the event?

In Japan. Also he says that only Issey Miyake and I have this chair. There are only two because he doesn’t want to produce any more.

So presumably, because they’re wrapped in wire in a very spontaneous way, the two chairs will not be identical?

No, they couldn’t be.

So the chair was an artistic happening, a conceptual event.

Let me tell you a story about the wiggle form of the tall drawer cabinet. Apparently Isozaki had two made. And Shiro went to visit him and saw that Isozaki put them symmetrically against the wall, not near the wall but with drawers facing the wall, not facing into the room. And he asked Isozaki why they were facing the wall, did he not want to use the drawers? Isozaki said, ‘Because I want to experience the shape going around it.’ Such a Japanese expression! Just to go around it to experience the shape. Because it was two different shapes, if you go this way or that way.

Had he made a mirror pair?

No, two of the same.

I love Solaris; on those long legs it looks like an alien spaceship that has landed.

Yes, or like an oil-drill platform.

It’s wonderfully illustrative of the over-riding importance to Kuramata of the imaginative, metaphorical, and philosophical dimension of his creations.

Exactly. It was those qualities that made his designs so attractive to me all those years ago; and they have lost nothing of their exceptional character. Shiro Kuramata was a unique figure and I am very, very fortunate to have known and worked with him.

This is an edited version of an interview of 8th January, 2014, published in full in the catalogue Christie’s Design sale, Shiro Kuramata: Collection Zeev Aram, on 20th May, 2014, at their showroom in Paris, France. The pieces can be viewed there until May 20th

All furniture designed by Shiro Kuramata (1934 > 1991)
All images © Christie’s Images Limited 2014

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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 | Christopher Farr’s Rug Editions

Friday, April 26th, 2013

Christopher Farr’s Editions:
Contemporary Rugs for Collectors
Somerset House, London, UK
May 2nd – 30 June, 2013

Christopher Farr’s collaborators are many, and they are as varied as the rugs the eponymously-named company produces. The current and ever-growing list includes some of the most famous and highly-respected names around in modern and contemporary British and international design, architecture and fine art, among them: Gillian AyresIlse Crawford, Gary Hume, Rifat Ozbek, John Pawson and Andrée Putman.

Farr, having studied fine art at The Slade, set up shop with Matthew Bourne as a business partner in 1988. Early success came via a collaboration with the Royal College of Art in 1991, which led to a further collaboration with Romeo Gigli, whose collection was launched at the Milan Furniture Fair in 1993, earning the pair’s rugs international acclaim. ‘Up to that point, Farr says, ‘new rugs were a dirty word. People laughed at us.’ No one laughed in 1997, when Farr and Bourne, with Gunta Stöltzl’s family’s blessing, produced rugs that the Bauhaus designer had designed in the 1920s, nor when they opened their gallery in London’s Notting Hill the same year. The company has produced custom made rugs for The Wellcome Trust, and for Oxford and Cambridge universities. TheWall series was commissioned by architect Sir Michael Hopkins as part of a collection of handmade wall pieces for the UK’s parliamentary building, Portcullis House. Other custom wall pieces were made for the Bank of America building in London. Setting up a fabric division in 2000, the company took a natural step into cloth production, utilizing high quality fabrics, from combed Egyptian cottons and Belgian linens for upholstery, curtains and blinds, to acrylic dyed fabrics for outdoor use.

Following the success of their first show of rugs held in Somerset House last year, the Christopher Farr’s Editions: Contemporary Rugs for Collectors exhibition – previewed during the recent Milano Design Week 2013, where the company also showed a new collection of rugs by celebrated US designer David Weeks – marking the company’s 25th anniversary, unveils the first in a series of limited editions (50-200), in hand-tufted 100% wool, ranging in price from £650 to £1000. Designs by Sir Terry Frost RA (1915-2003), by Bauhaus master Josef Albers (1888-1976) and by his wife, Anni Albers (1899-1994) will be included. Penny Falls by Kate Blee, a London-based textile artist who has been collaborating with Farr since 1987, will also be shown. Renowned still-life artist, William Scott (1913-1989) – the centenary of whose birth is being celebrated in an exhibition running at Tate St Ives until 6th May, 2013 – will be represented by Permutation Brown, and Three Squares by leading British abstract colourist, Sandra Blow RA (1925-2006) – an adaptation from an etching printed in 2003 – will be exhibited. Jeweller, Lara Bohinc’s circular rug, Solar, will appear, alongside Sulspice, a flamboyant op-art design created by Farr, himself.

Rugs from top
Christopher Farr
1.22 x 1.83m
Edition of 15

Sir Terry Frost RA
Variations (Black on White)
Adapted from a 1973 print
2 x 2.13m
Produced in association with the Stoneman Gallery and the Terry Frost Estate

William Scott
Permutation Brown
Adapted from a 1977 Scott painting
1.4 x 2.3m
Produced in association with the Royal Academy of Arts and the William Scott Foundation
©Estate of William Scott 2013 supporting Alzheimer’s

Josef Albers
Homage to the Square, 1951
1.65 x 1.65m
Produced in association with the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation
©2013 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/ VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn and ARS, New York

All of those illustrated are in editions of 150

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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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All Categories | Past Forward

Friday, December 28th, 2012

Christian Marclay – The Clock
New York City, USA
Until 21st January, 2013

David Bowie Is
Victoria & Albert Museum
London, UK
23rd March – 28th July, 2013

As we look forward to the David Bowie Is retrospective at London’s V&A in 2013, Christian Marclay’s film, The Clock, ticks away the remainder of 2012 at MoMA in New York, where it opened last week.

Completed in 2010 – already three years old – a monumental icon of contemporary art, The Clock, for which Marclay won a Golden Lion for best artist at the Venice Film Festival in 2011, is cleverly constructed from 24 hours-worth of clips from the past 100 years of cinema, almost all including a clock or a watch. Perhaps the film and the Bowie show can be taken as signs of the times. Certainly, referencing and re-assessing the past was a theme during 2012 and indications are that the trend is set to continue.

If we pause to consider, true innovation is a pretty rare thing and, while there’s no current lack of it, the flow remains uneven by nature. In comparison, art and design history – recent and ancient – is vast and has left an enormous, carefully refined legacy, much of it eminently worthy of our attention, reconsideration and reinterpretation, some of it recyclable.

Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum reopens its doors in April 2013 following an ambitious 10-year renovation programme. Already launched, the very forward-thinking Rijks Studio initiative, makes a digital collection of 125,000 items from the museum’s historical collection accessible to all for free. Members of the public are invited to create their own works of art by downloading high-resolution images and using them in a creative fashion, copyright free.

Editor of the British edition of Harper’s Bazaar, Justine Picardie is the author of several acclaimed books including Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life (HarperCollins, 2010). Talking about her first proper issue (January, 2013), she explains her preoccupations with Chanel, Vreeland, Dior, et al, as an exploration of how understanding the past is a way to move forwards. And it’s important to get it right. Opinions differed on the October launch of Hedi Slimane’s debut collection for Saint Laurent – the label’s original inspirational concepts still present, but updated and made inimitably Slimane’s own, were seen by some as underwhelming.

The (London) Royal Academy’s Building the Revolution: Soviet Art and Architecture 1915-1935 ran over into January, 2012. Reviewing it, The Guardian reminded us that the Russian avant garde which emerged out of the futurist cafés and cabarets of the mid-1910s was probably the most intensive and creative art and architectural movement of the past century. Sergei Tchoban (with partner Sergei Kuznetsov) of SPEECH Techoban/Kuznetsov, designed the astonishingly futuristic and much-praised Russian Pavilion that caused such a stir at the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale in August. The entirely QR-coded environment – an homage, conscious or otherwise, to the square: architectural cornerstone of a few thousand years standing, but currently out of favour in a world of curvilinear structures – addressed the country’s future while referencing early 20th century influences. Italian Futurism, 1909-44, will run at The Guggenheim in New York from in 2014. When it appeared, in 1909, the original Futurist Manifesto, that had inspired the Russians, called for the demolition of museums and libraries; Foster + Partners recently mooted $300 million renovation of the New York Public Library in Manhattan, intended to begin with the eviction of 1.2 million books, provoked more adverse reaction than it bargained for. Similarly, London’s uncompromising tall and dynamic Shard, inaugurated in July, caused an immediate sensation, but earned a chilly reception from some quarters for its apparent lack of sensitivity towards the existing cityscape.

Steeped in ancient tradition, the Olympic Games has brought the modern world some its most daring, groundbreaking and well-considered architecture, product design and graphics. The London 2012 Games – modest in terms of scale by comparison to recent predecessors – didn’t fail to deliver more of the same. Among other items, the event’s Olympic torch designed by Barber Osgerby, was buried in a time capsule as part of the ground breaking ceremony for the new Design Museum that will be installed in the former 1962-built Commonwealth Institute, after its rigorous but nevertheless sympathetic redevelopment by John Pawson. Elsewhere, Herzog & de Meuron, architects of the Beijing 2008 Olympics‘ astonishing ‘Bird’s Nest’ stadium, and designers of the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2012 (with Ai Weiwei), recently completed the Parrish Art Museum at Southampton on Long Island. ‘Our design for the Parrish is a reinterpretation… of the traditional house form,’  said Jacques Herzog, ‘…something very specific, precise and also fresh.’

This month at Christie’s in New York a lacquered and painted wooden screen made by Eileen Gray in the 1920s, sold for over $1.8 million. Paris, where Gray spent most of her life, hosts a retrospective of her unique work at the Pompidou Centre, starting in February. American photographer, Man Ray, also spent the greater part of his life in Paris. Man Ray’s Portraits is at London’s National Portrait Gallery in February, while Bill Brandt: Shadow and Light will run from March to August at MoMA. It takes Inspired curating with a new and interesting perspective, combined with creative presentation to make exhibitions and events based solely on archival content current and vital.

Frieze Masters was launched in October by Amanda Sharp and Matthew Slotover, co-founders of Frieze. The new fair, coinciding with, and within walking distance of Frieze London, in Regent’s Park, was based on the idea of applying a contemporary approach to selling pre-21st-century art, from ancient to modern. The inaugural six-day event, in which 90 galleries from 18 countries took part, was attended by around 28,000 international visitors and was a massive hit. Sales were brisk; one of the most significant reports was of widespread contemporary collectors’ interest in historical work and vice versa. Not surprisingly, Frieze Masters will happen again in 2013 and is set to become a regular fixture.

The apposite title of the V&A’s forthcoming show, David Bowie Is, recognises that the David Bowie phenomenon, so influential over the past 40 yearts, is important historically but also as a source of inspiration for today’s and tomorrow’s innovative thinking. Set in motion, sequences from it cast out on to the internet, it’s unlikely that The Clock will ever stop.

Images from top
Original photography for the Earthling album cover, 1997,
Frank W Ockenfels 3

Union Jack coat designed by Alexander McQueen in collaboration with
David Bowie
© Frank W Ockenfels 3, 1997

Video still from The Clock, 2010, Christian Marclay
Single-channel video with sound, 24 hours
©Christian Marclay. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

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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 | Swarovski Goes Digital at Design Museum

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Digital Crystal: Swarovski at the Design Museum
The Design Museum, London, UK
5th September – 13th January, 2013

When, in 1989, Terence Conran whose concept it was to create ‘the first museum of modern design’, in London, and whose company converted a 1940s banana warehouse into the Design Museum, his involvement may have had a little to do with personal vanity but probably wasn’t an exercise in brand awareness for his then-burgeoning string of high-quality retail outlets and smart restaurants. Along with Conran, the project was funded by many companies, designers and benefactors whose aim was to raise design awareness and the general standard of British design.

Its founding principles being to make works of art available to all, to educate working people and to inspire British designers and manufacturers, it was royal patronage that provided the driving force behind the Victoria & Albert Museum, set up in 1852 in the wake of the enormous success of the Great Exhibition the previous year. In a boom time for British industry, generous Victorian benefactors and a less competitive art market than today’s meant that the young museum was able to make many very important acquisitions and quickly build up the most astonishing collections. Although it set out to acquire the best examples of metalwork, furniture, textiles and all other forms of decorative art from all periods, it also acquired fine art – paintings, drawings, prints and sculpture – in order to tell a more complete history of art and design but recognising, and this is key, that there was a significant difference between the two. Commercial sponsorship of design would follow in the 1890s when Arthur Lasenby Liberty built strong relationships with many leading English designers who were prominent figures in the Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau movements. Liberty himself, through his commissions, became instrumental in the development of Art Nouveau and in consequence his shop, Liberty, became one of the most prestigious in London.

Everyone is getting in on the relationship/benefactor/sponsor/collaborator act these days, and in particular there’s an ever growing crossover between luxury goods brands, architecture, design and the arts. It’s difficult to see where it will all end up. On the one hand, if fashion companies flirt with fine artists, inviting them to collaborate – as, notably, Marc Jacobs did at Louis Vuitton in 2002 with one Japanese artist, Takashi Murakami (who had already worked with Issey Miyake) and more recently with another, Yayoi Kusama – they blur the line between fine art and commerce. On the other hand, it can be said that in modern times the practice has been going on since the 1960s, when Pop art turned commercialism on its head, Op art visual illusions were applied to fabrics that were turned into dresses and Yves St Laurent designed his 1965 Mondrian dress. Taking hold of the baton in 2003, milliner Philip Treacy put Andy Warhol images on to his hats.

Selfridges and Primark owner the Canadian, Weston family claimed the top fashion spot in The Sunday Times Rich List, 2012. No strangers to art sponsorship, through the Garfield Weston Foundation, they are among the most generous supporters of the arts in Britain. Selfridges’ creative director Alannah Weston is quoted as having said: ‘My goal is to make Selfridges a destination where people can have an extraordinary experience. I have to surprise, amaze and amuse them.’ And by transforming and opening up the store’s interiors, establishing a gallery in the basement and by inviting well-known artists and young hopefuls to create cutting edge window displays, since she took on the role in 2003, she has certainly done that. And, if that wasn’t enough, she’s appointed The Shard’s architect Renzo Piano to redesign the entire store.

We’re in the middle of a confusing time when architects – Rem Koolhaas, 2009, United Nude – launch fashion footwear collections and design the stores they are sold in; when designers of the Olympic Torch, Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby have shown non-functional designed objects at the Haunch of Venison gallery and Farrow & Ball are the official paint sponsor of Manchester City Galleries. Last year Swarovski, collaborators with the Museum of the forthcoming exhibition Digital Crystal: Swarovski at the Design Museum, worked with the Hello Kitty brand and Manhattan-based, Taiwanese Canadian Jason Wu’s Resort 2013 fashion collection, will contain hundreds of Swarovski crystals. Shared core values: artfulness, simplicity, creativity and beauty, apparently make it a safe bet to presume that Hello Kitty and Jason Wu customers will appreciate Swarovski’s creations and vice versa. Maybe, in the post-analogue era ‘when our relationship with objects and even with time is changing’ these same reasons are behind Swarovski and the Design Museum’s joint project, because  with these sorts of temporary partnerships it’s always a quid pro quo situation – nobody’s in it for nothing.

Swarovski, the world’s leading manufacturer of cut crystal was established in Austria in 1895 and has a long tradition of links with the fashion and jewellery industry, collaborating in the 1950s with Christian Dior and Coco Chanel to create avant-garde crystal jewellery. 42-year-old Nadja Swarovski, vice-president of international communications at the company began her career at the Gagosian Gallery, which probably explains a lot about her interests and the areas she’s taken the company into.

Now in its tenth year, the Swarovski Crystal Palace project – one of Nadia’s initiatives – has commissioned some of the world’s foremost  designers including Zaha Hadid, Yvés Behar, Studio Job, Ross Lovegrove, Tom Dixon and more. Initially, the idea was to reinterpret crystal chandeliers but the project has evolved into an experimental design platform allowing designers to conceptualise, develop and share their most radical works. In 2009 Nigel Coates, Professor of Architecture at the Royal College of Art designed 43 Swarovski ‘Cloudeliers’ for the restaurant at Glyndebourne and in 2011, St Paul’s Perspectives, was created by architect John Pawson, who used a precision-made Swarovski Optik lens and a suspended spherical steel mirror to reflect a new vision of the Geometric Staircase of St Paul’s Cathedral. As well as others, Ron Arad, Yves Béhar, Paul Cocksedge, Troika and Fredrikson Stallard – who actually include a section called Sculpture on their website – have been asked to take part in the Design Museum exhibition, reworking existing pieces commissioned from them by Swarovski, in response to the exhibition brief.

At the end of the analogue era Digital Crystal is intended as a catalyst for debate about the changing nature of memory in the digital world but may also force us to reassess our ideas about the role of designers and architects, and especially the role of fine artists in relation to the commercial world. And certainly there are questions to be asked. There’s something uneasy about design masquerading as art, but is that what it’s doing? Are designers and architects capable of producing great art? Is it all just business as usual? The sponsorship of design and architecture can certainly be said to usefully contribute to innovation when it provides the necessary funds to accomplish experimental projects, large and small, that otherwise might only be dreamt of, and while it can be seen to have democratised art – which must be a good thing – if it also leads to art’s total commoditisation, it remains to be seen whether it will be to art’s long term benefit.

Images from top
Ron Arad, Lolita, originally commissioned in 2004
Redesigned to receive tweets and text messages that can be displayed
on its spiral form

Paul Cocksedge, Crystallize, originally commissioned in 2005
Via single crystals mounted onto a tubular glass frame, trajectory
beams fill the room as light cascades from each crystal

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Furniture Design | Hans (The Chair) Wenger

Friday, May 4th, 2012

20th Century Decorative Art & Design Sale
Christie’s, King Street, London, UK
3rd May, 2012

When I first met architect John Pawson around 1987, he had just completed his very memorable Wakaba, Japanese restaurant project, in London. ‘Inside, there is little to detract from the business of eating and conversation’ he wrote later in his eponymously titled monograph, John Pawson, published by Editorial Gustavo Gili in 1992. Except for the extraordinary choice of light, sculptural dining chairs with hand-woven seat, I thought, that were completely unfamiliar to me and which might easily be Japanese. It turned out, however, that the chairs, which feature a steam-bent, gently rounded top-piece that provides freedom of movement and generous comfort, making it suitable for eating as well as for relaxed sitting away from the table, were the Wishbone chair – reportedly, Pawson’s favourite chair – designed by Dane, Hans Wenger in 1949 for Carl Hansen & Son.

‘[Creating] a good chair is a task one is never completely done with,’ Wenger (1914-2007) is quoted as saying and having designed countless chairs in his 60-year career, in which his designs were produced by Fritz Hansen, Johannes Hansen, Carl Hansen & Sons, Getama and PP Møbler – 70-odd designs and variations are currently available at the Danish Design Store – who would have known better.

Son of a shoemaker, Hans Wenger was born in Tønder, Denmark, and finished his apprenticeship as a cabinet-maker at 17. Already experimenting with his own designs, as a twenty-year-old he moved to Copenhagen and studied at the School of Arts and Crafts before starting work as an assistant to architects Erik Møller and Arne Jacobsen, for whose projects he ocassionally designed furniture. Opening his own office in 1943, Wenger brought out his China chair and later Round chair, which the US magazine Interiors featured on its cover, calling it ‘the world’s most beautiful chair’, thus catalpulting the designer to international fame. It became known simply as ‘The Chair’. Still produced by PP Møbler, it was made famous via the Kennedy/Nixon televised debates of 1959 and is one of his most commercially successful chairs for.

‘A chair… should be beautiful from all sides and angles,’ said Wenger and he was absolutely right. Though intended to be functional the best chairs are artworks in themselves and are far more than simply something to sit on. Wenger’s innovation, was to produce free-standing, sculptural chairs that looked good from every point of view and could stand alone without having to be part of a set. The inspiration for some of his designs had come from portraits of Danish merchants sitting in Ming chairs, so my earlier supposition was, geographically at least, not too far out.

Design classics, every one, Wenger’s superbly-crafted chairs have become highly collectable, especially among architects and designers. When I photographed architects Adam and Irenie Cossey and their children a year or so ago, they had just picked up a Wenger chair for ‘a good price’. Adam sat in it for the shot. Similar in feel to his chair, the adjustable chaise (above) in Christie’s 20th Century Decorative Art & Design Sale, yesterday, estimated to sell at £7,000 – 9,000, actually went for a cool £15,000.

Adam, seated on the Hans Wenger purchase, and Irenie Cossey with their children

Hans Wenger chairs from top
CH07 Lounge chair, 1963, produced by Johannes Hansen, laminated wood, with evidence of original orange lacquer beneath later white paint, later leather upholstery applied to the seat pads. Estimate £6,000 – 8,000. Price realised £11,250

JH-540 Valet chair
, 1953, produced by Johannes Hansen, carved teak, brass hinges, storage well of oak and with leather trim. Estimate £5,000 – 7,000. Price realised £6,000

JH-524 Adjustable chaise, 1958, produced by Johannes Hansen, carved oak, stainless steel, flagline and canvas applied metal manufacturer’s label Johannes Hansen. Estimate £7,000 – 9,000. Price realised £15,000

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