Posts Tagged ‘V&A’

Exhibitions | Reminder: Don’t Miss These…

Saturday, August 1st, 2015

McDermott & McGough, Those Moments, 1955, 2010
Tricolour carbon print. Courtesy the artists and Cheim & Read, New York.
On show at The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, see below



The Blog team return next week.
Whether you’re staying at home or travelling,
here’s our selection of some of the best
of what’s on show this summer >>>



Doug Aitken, Sunset (black and white), 2011
Hand carved foam, epoxy with LED lights and hand silk-screened acrylic.
Courtesy the artist, 303 Gallery, New York, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich, Victoria Miro Gallery, London and Regen Projects, LA. Photo © Brian Forrest.
On show at the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, see below



>>> Until 23 August 2015
Coop Himmelb(l)au
Frankfurt Lyon Dalian

DeutschesArchitekturmuseum (DAM)
Frankfurt | Germany
Vienna-based architectural practice with the long-winded name Coop Himme(l)blau Wolf D Prix & Partner, long-time player on the international architecture scene, founded in 1968 in response to the predominance of rectilinear grids, set out to liberate architecture from its functional confines by rendering space more dynamic and buildings gravity-defying. The exhibition presents three of the studio’s latest projects: the new European Central Bank building (2015) in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, the Musée des Confluences (2014) in Lyon, France, and the Dalian International Conference Centre in China (2012), see image below.

>>> Auction 28 Aug 2015
Japanese Whisky
Christie’s
Admiralty | Hong Kong
Featuring Hanyu Ichito’s Full Cards Series of 54 bottles of the spirit, each with beautifully-designed individual labels on a playing card theme, which are expected to sell for HK$1.8 m > 2.4 m / £150,000 > 200,000 / US$230,000 > 310,000.

>>> Until 28 August 2015
Joana Vasconcelos:
Material World

Phillips
(Selling exhibition)
London | UK

Forty works representing various periods of sculptor and installation artist Joana Vasconcelos’s career to date, coinciding with the publication of her monograph by Thames & Hudson.

>>> Until 13 September 2015
Perfect Likeness:
Photography and Composition

The Hammer Museum
Los Angeles | USA

Having reached a point when everyone thinks he / she is a photographer, and where photography of every possible style and quality pervades every corner of our daily lives, this exhibition looks at the carefully composed images of fine art photographers such as Thomas Demand, Andreas Gursky, McDermott & McGough and Jeff Wall.

>>> Until 13 September 2015
Design Derby:
The Netherlands – Belgium (1815 > 2015)

Museum Boijmans
Van Beuningen

Rotterdam | Netherlands

Like for like Dutch and Belgium design objects – from sumptuous and elegant Belgian art nouveau to the more austere Dutch version, and from the contemporary tours de force of Belgium design to the level-headed Dutch design of today – confront one other in friendly competition.

>>> Until 25 October 2015
Fast Fashion
The Shadowy Side of Fashion

Museum für Kunst und
Gewerbe Hamburg

Hamburg | Germany
A critical glimpse behind the scenes of fashion – consumerism, economic interests and ecological issues – throwing light upon fashion and its victims; poverty and affluence; global and local effects; wages and profits; garments and chemicals; clothes and ecology; as well as new fibre technologies.

>>> Until 26 September 2015
Larry Bell 2D-3D:
Glass & Vapor

White Cube, Mason’s Yard
London | UK
Larry Bell (b 1939, Chicago) is a leading exponent of the California ‘Light and Space’ movement. The exhibition includes three early glass installations as well as collages on paper and new, kinetic Light Knot sculptures. To coincide with a major presentation of a Standing Wall installation of thirty-two, six foot square glass panels (c1989 >2014) currently on show at the Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas, USA, at White Cube, Bell has installed 6 x 8 An Improvisation.

>>> Until 27 September 2015
Doug Aitken
Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt
Frankfurt | Germany
Following on from his Station to Station: A 30 Day Happening extravaganza at London’s Barbican, The Shirn dedicates its entire exhibition space, inside and out, to the impressive work of American multimedia-artist Doug Aitken, in the most comprehensive solo presentation of his film, music, architecture, performance and sculpture in Germany and elsewhere to date, see image above

>>> Until 27 September 2015
Germaine Krull
A Photographer’s Journey

Jeu de Paume
Paris | France
The idea of the female career photographer – rather than dabbler or dilettante – didn’t properly materialise until free-spirited women such as Gertrude Krull (1897 > 1985) thrust herself headlong into the male-dominated mêlée in the 1920s.



One-sheet poster for Sullivan’s Travels, directed by Preston Sturges, 1941
Poster art direction by Maurice Kallis. Courtesy Sikelia Productions.
On show at MoMA in New York, see below

Dalian International Conference Centre, China, by
Coop Himmelb(l)au Wolf D Prix & Partner, in Vienna, Austria

Photo © Duccio Malagamba.
On show at the Deutsches Architekturmuseum, Frankfurt, see above



>>> Until 27 September 2015
What is Luxury?
V&A
London | UK
The world’s biggest museum of the decorative arts and design has a permanent, historic collection of over 4.5 million objects. By definition it is a museum of things, many of which are extremely valuable and considered to be luxurious items. With over 100 objects, ‘From a diamond made from roadkill to a vending machine stocked with DNA, a golden crown for ecclesiastical use to traditional military tailoring, this exhibition addresses how luxury is made and understood in a physical, conceptual and cultural capacity.’

>>> Until September 30
Scorsese Collects [film posters]
Museum of Modern Art
New York City | USA
In celebration of director Martin Scorsese’s enduring commitment to the preservation of international film culture, MoMA presents 34 works from his collection, centred around a rare, billboard-size poster for the 1951 film Tales of Hoffmann. The exhibition will be accompanied by the film series Scorsese Screens throughout August.

>>> Until 4 October 2015
From Bauhaus to Buenos Aires:
Grete Stern & Horacio Coppola

Museum of Modern Art
New York City | USA
The first major exhibition of the German-born Grete Stern and the Argentinean Horacio Coppola, two leading figures of avant-garde photography who, in the 1930s, established themselves on both sides of the Atlantic.

>>> Until 18 October 2015
The 80s. Figurative
Painting in West Germany

Städel Museum
Frankfurt | Germany
Shedding light on the new and dynamic figurative painting that developed in the 1980s almost simultaneously in Berlin, Hamburg and the Rhineland. Works by among many other artists, Martin Kippenberger, Albert Oehlen, and Salomé.

>>> Until 25 October 2015
Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture
for a Modern World

Tate Britain
London | UK
Retrospective of one of Britain’s greatest artists, Barbara Hepworth (1903 > 1975), one of the few women artists to achieve widespread recognition and international prominence, featuring many of her most significant sculptures in wood, stone and bronze alongside her rarely seen works that exemplified modernism from the 1920s onwards.

>>> Until 25 October 2015
Gilbert & George:
The Early Years

Museum of Modern Art
New York City | USA
‘It’s not a collaboration. . . We are two people, but one artist,’ say the inseparable British artists, Gilbert and George, who have been creating art together for almost fifty years. This exhibition focuses on their early years, from 1969 to 1975, when the art world around them was largely engaged in pop, minimal, and conceptual work, while the pair developed a wholly unique vision.

>>> Until 26 October 2015
Radikal Moderne Planen
und Bauen im Berlin
der Sechziger Jahre

/ Planning and Building
in Berlin in the 1960s

Berlinische Galerie
Berlin | Germany
Via 300 known works and recently rediscovered material representing 30 architects, planners, photographers and artists, this is the first detailed examination of a decade in architecture and urban planning that shaped a city divided not only by a wall, but also by political ideologies.

>>> Until 31 October 2015
Stone Fenoyl (1945 > 1987).
An Imaginary Geography.
A Documentary Record

Château de Tours
(in association with Jeu de Paume)
Tours | France

Famous for his ability to discover and nurture new photographers, and for his admiration of anonymous 19th century photographs, iconographer, curator, art buyer, gallery and Vu agency (now Viva) founder, Pierre de Fenoyl was the first director of France’s National Foundation Photography in 1976. Champion of the work of Brassai, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Duane Michals and André Kertész, alongside prints, documents, films and publications, this retrospective also shows the black and white landscape photography he created himself from 1984.

>>> Until 1 November 2015
Fotografia Futurista
Galleria Carla Sozzani
Milan | Italy
With over one hundred original photographs, representing the work of over thirty photographers, this exhibition demonstrates how, over a fifty-year period, the futurists took possession of the photographic language and used it as a medium to capture the pulse of early 20th century life. In so doing, they transformed photography into the dynamic, potent and multifaceted force it became in both art and commerce in the twentieth century.

>>> Until 31 January 2016
Shoes: Pleasure and Pain
V&A
London | UK
Exploring the euphoria and obsession they can inspire, more than 200 pairs of historic and contemporary shoes from the V&A’s unrivalled international collection, worn by or associated with high profile figures including Marilyn Monroe, Queen Victoria, Sarah Jessica Parker and the Hon Daphne Guinness are on display. Famous shoes, such as the ballet slippers designed for Moira Shearer in the 1948 film The Red Shoes, are exhibited alongside footwear by 70 named designers including Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin, Jimmy Choo and Miuccia Prada.



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

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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Exhibitions | This Summer, Don’t Miss These…

Friday, July 24th, 2015

McDermott & McGough, Those Moments, 1955, 2010
Tricolour carbon print. Courtesy the artists and Cheim & Read, New York.
On show at The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, see below



The Blog team is away.
Whether you stay at
home or go travelling,
h
ere’s our selection of
some of the best of what’s
on show this summer >>>



Doug Aitken, Sunset (black and white), 2011
Hand carved foam, epoxy with LED lights and hand silk-screened acrylic.
Courtesy the artist, 303 Gallery, New York, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich, Victoria Miro Gallery, London and Regen Projects, LA. Photo © Brian Forrest.
On show at the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, see below



>>> Until 23 August 2015
Coop Himmelb(l)au
Frankfurt Lyon Dalian
DeutschesArchitekturmuseum (DAM)
Frankfurt | Germany
Vienna-based architectural practice with the long-winded name Coop Himme(l)blau Wolf D Prix & Partner, long-time player on the international architecture scene, founded in 1968 in response to the predominance of rectilinear grids, set out to liberate architecture from its functional confines by rendering space more dynamic and buildings gravity-defying. The exhibition presents three of the studio’s latest projects: the new European Central Bank building (2015) in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, the Musée des Confluences (2014) in Lyon, France, and the Dalian International Conference Centre in China (2012), see image below.

>>> Auction 28 Aug 2015
Japanese Whisky
Christie’s
Admiralty | Hong Kong
Featuring Hanyu Ichito’s Full Cards Series of 54 bottles of the spirit, each with beautifully-designed individual labels on a playing card theme, which are expected to sell for HK$1.8 m > 2.4 m / £150,000 > 200,000 / US$230,000 > 310,000.

>>> Until 28 August 2015
Joana Vasconcelos:
Material World
Phillips
(Selling exhibition)
London | UK
Forty works representing various periods of sculptor and installation artist Joana Vasconcelos’s career to date, coinciding with the publication of her monograph by Thames & Hudson.

>>> Until 13 September 2015
Perfect Likeness:
Photography and
Composition
The Hammer Museum
Los Angeles | USA

Having reached a point when everyone thinks he / she is a photographer, and where photography of every possible style and quality pervades every corner of our daily lives, this exhibition looks at the carefully composed images of fine art photographers such as Thomas Demand, Andreas Gursky, McDermott & McGough and Jeff Wall.

>>> Until 13 September 2015
Design Derby:
The Netherlands – Belgium (1815 > 2015)
Museum Boijmans
Van Beuningen
Rotterdam | Netherlands

Like for like Dutch and Belgium design objects – from sumptuous and elegant Belgian art nouveau to the more austere Dutch version, and from the contemporary tours de force of Belgium design to the level-headed Dutch design of today – confront one other in friendly competition.

>>> Until 25 October 2015
Fast Fashion
The Shadowy Side of Fashion
Museum für Kunst und
Gewerbe Hamburg

Hamburg | Germany
A critical glimpse behind the scenes of fashion – consumerism, economic interests and ecological issues – throwing light upon fashion and its victims; poverty and affluence; global and local effects; wages and profits; garments and chemicals; clothes and ecology; as well as new fibre technologies.

>>> Until 26 September 2015
Larry Bell 2D-3D:
Glass & Vapor

White Cube, Mason’s Yard
London | UK
Larry Bell (b 1939, Chicago) is a leading exponent of the California ‘Light and Space’ movement. The exhibition includes three early glass installations as well as collages on paper and new, kinetic Light Knot sculptures. To coincide with a major presentation of a Standing Wall installation of thirty-two, six foot square glass panels (c1989 >2014) currently on show at the Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas, USA, at White Cube, Bell has installed 6 x 8 An Improvisation.

>>> Until 27 September 2015
Doug Aitken
Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt
Frankfurt | Germany
Following on from his Station to Station: A 30 Day Happening extravaganza at London’s Barbican, The Shirn dedicates its entire exhibition space, inside and out, to the impressive work of American multimedia-artist Doug Aitken, in the most comprehensive solo presentation of his film, music, architecture, performance and sculpture in Germany and elsewhere to date, see image above

>>> Until 27 September 2015
Germaine Krull
A Photographer’s Journey
Jeu de Paume
Paris | France
The idea of the female career photographer – rather than dabbler or dilettante – didn’t properly materialise until free-spirited women such as Gertrude Krull (1897 > 1985) thrust herself headlong into the male-dominated mêlée in the 1920s.



One-sheet poster for Sullivan’s Travels, directed by Preston Sturges, 1941
Poster art direction by Maurice Kallis. Courtesy Sikelia Productions.
On show at MoMA in New York, see below

Dalian International Conference Centre, China, by
Coop Himmelb(l)au Wolf D Prix & Partner, in Vienna, Austria
Photo © Duccio Malagamba.
On show at the Deutsches Architekturmuseum, Frankfurt, see above



>>> Until 27 September 2015
What is Luxury?
V&A
London | UK
The world’s biggest museum of the decorative arts and design has a permanent, historic collection of over 4.5 million objects. By definition it is a museum of things, many of which are extremely valuable and considered to be luxurious items. With over 100 objects, ‘From a diamond made from roadkill to a vending machine stocked with DNA, a golden crown for ecclesiastical use to traditional military tailoring, this exhibition addresses how luxury is made and understood in a physical, conceptual and cultural capacity.’

>>> Until September 30
Scorsese Collects [film posters]
Museum of Modern Art
New York City | USA
In celebration of director Martin Scorsese’s enduring commitment to the preservation of international film culture, MoMA presents 34 works from his collection, centred around a rare, billboard-size poster for the 1951 film Tales of Hoffmann. The exhibition will be accompanied by the film series Scorsese Screens throughout August.

>>> Until 4 October 2015
From Bauhaus to Buenos Aires:
Grete Stern & Horacio Coppola

Museum of Modern Art
New York City | USA
The first major exhibition of the German-born Grete Stern and the Argentinean Horacio Coppola, two leading figures of avant-garde photography who, in the 1930s, established themselves on both sides of the Atlantic.

>>> Until 18 October 2015
The 80s. Figurative
Painting in West Germany

Städel Museum
Frankfurt | Germany
Shedding light on the new and dynamic figurative painting that developed in the 1980s almost simultaneously in Berlin, Hamburg and the Rhineland. Works by among many other artists, Martin Kippenberger, Albert Oehlen, and Salomé.

>>> Until 25 October 2015
Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture
for a Modern World

Tate Britain
London | UK
Retrospective of one of Britain’s greatest artists, Barbara Hepworth (1903 > 1975), one of the few women artists to achieve widespread recognition and international prominence, featuring many of her most significant sculptures in wood, stone and bronze alongside her rarely seen works that exemplified modernism from the 1920s onwards.

>>> Until 25 October 2015
Gilbert & George:
The Early Years

Museum of Modern Art
New York City | USA
‘It’s not a collaboration. . . We are two people, but one artist,’ say the inseparable British artists, Gilbert and George, who have been creating art together for almost fifty years. This exhibition focuses on their early years, from 1969 to 1975, when the art world around them was largely engaged in pop, minimal, and conceptual work, while the pair developed a wholly unique vision.

>>> Until 26 October 2015
Radikal Moderne Planen
und Bauen im Berlin
der Sechziger Jahre
/
Planning and Building
in Berlin in the 1960s

Berlinische Galerie
Berlin | Germany
Via 300 known works and recently rediscovered material representing 30 architects, planners, photographers and artists, this is the first detailed examination of a decade in architecture and urban planning that shaped a city divided not only by a wall, but also by political ideologies.

>>> Until 31 October 2015
Stone Fenoyl (1945 > 1987).
An Imaginary Geography.
A Documentary Record
Château de Tours
(in association with Jeu de Paume)
Tours | France
Famous for his ability to discover and nurture new photographers, and for his admiration of anonymous 19th century photographs, iconographer, curator, art buyer, gallery and Vu agency (now Viva) founder, Pierre de Fenoyl was the first director of France’s National Foundation Photography in 1976. Champion of the work of Brassai, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Duane Michals and André Kertész, alongside prints, documents, films and publications, this retrospective also shows the black and white landscape photography he created himself from 1984.

>>> Until 1 November 2015
Fotografia Futurista
Galleria Carla Sozzani
Milan | Italy
With over one hundred original photographs, representing the work of over thirty photographers, this exhibition demonstrates how, over a fifty-year period, the futurists took possession of the photographic language and used it as a medium to capture the pulse of early 20th century life. In so doing, they transformed photography into the dynamic, potent and multifaceted force it became in both art and commerce in the twentieth century.

>>> Until 31 January 2016
Shoes: Pleasure and Pain
V&A
London | UK
Exploring the euphoria and obsession they can inspire, more than 200 pairs of historic and contemporary shoes from the V&A’s unrivalled international collection, worn by or associated with high profile figures including Marilyn Monroe, Queen Victoria, Sarah Jessica Parker and the Hon Daphne Guinness are on display. Famous shoes, such as the ballet slippers designed for Moira Shearer in the 1948 film The Red Shoes, are exhibited alongside footwear by 70 named designers including Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin, Jimmy Choo and Miuccia Prada.


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

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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Exhibitions | On Luxury

Friday, April 17th, 2015

Voltage Dress,
Iris van Herpen, 2013, Paris
© M Zoeter x Iris van Herpen




What is Luxury?
A V&A and Crafts Council Exhibition
V&A
London | UK
25 April > 27 September 2015



Fragile Future 3
Concrete Chandelier,
Studio Drift, 2011
© Studio Drift, Courtesy
Carpenters Workshop Gallery



Journalists, photographers and creative directors sometimes get very close to luxury. Wearing these different hats, I’ve stayed in what are regarded as some of the most luxurious hotels in the world, including The Hotel Prince Maurice in Mauritius, Brown’s Hotel in London’s Mayfair, Morgans Hotel, The Royalton and The Roger in New York, the legendary Chateau Marmont in LA, and the Grande Bretagne in Athens, among others. I’ve eaten at many of London, New York and Paris’s most prestigious and luxurious restaurants, and sampled great wines. As a photographer, I’ve handled many items of almost unimaginably expensive and finely-crafted, luxurious jewellery and watches. Although I haven’t been to a luxurious couture event, for a few years I regularly attended the prêt-à-porter fashion shows – Chanel, Marc Jacobs, Versace – of all the major players in Paris, London and New York. Involved in celebrity cover shoots for glamorous magazines, I’ve met film stars, pop stars and royalty, and have visited many luxurious homes. Much of it left me untouched. My ideas of luxury are somewhat simpler.

But, defining luxury is not as simple as saying, ‘Your luxury isn’t my luxury. My luxury may not be yours.’ Luxury means different things to different people, and as a concept, it changes over time. Tangled up with concepts of wealth and poverty, of education and ignorance, of culture, of taste, of style, one person’s idea of what constitutes luxury, may be a million miles away from another’s, to the extent that each has a totally different understanding of it. Suffice to say, luxury is an elusive ’something’ people admire and crave for, to one extent or another, while others, who claim to abhor it, may equally be said to possess the luxury of immunity to it. For them, and in the extreme I’m talking about people like the late minimalist artist, Donald Judd, and many others sharing varying degrees of a similar taste, who see luxury as something more than an ostentatious display of wealth, and for who less is infinitely more luxurious than more.

Body 1, Re-materialisation of Systems
El Ultimo Grito, 2014
© Photo POI

Combs, Hair Highway,
Studio Swine, 2014
© Studio Swine

Necklace, Bubble Bath,
Nora Fok, 2001
Photo Heini Schneebeli,
courtesy the Crafts Council



When everything was hunky-dory, in the few years before the worldwide financial crisis of 2007 > 08, when many of us, although we were not exactly rich, might be described as ‘living in a land of milk and honey’, the standard phrases that hitherto had been closely associated with luxury – great comfort, elegance, great expense, opulence, sumptuousness, richness, costliness, grandeur, splendour, magnificence, lavishness, affluence, wealth, prosperity, plenty – began to sound strangely quaint.

Having since been forced into a period of austerity, with extreme implications for many millions of people all over a world, in which only the fortunate few can be said to be ‘living in the lap of luxury’, and having reached a point where technological advances are rapidly changing our lives and values, it is perhaps an appropriate moment to reassess luxury, and to try to decipher what it means to us now. London’s V&A museum is doing just that in its forthcoming exhibition What is Luxury, organised in collaboration with the Crafts Council.

The world’s biggest museum of the decorative arts and design, the V&A houses a permanent, historic collection of over 4.5 million objects. By definition it is a museum of things, many of which are extremely valuable and considered to be luxurious items. And, the appreciation of ‘things’ would seem the best common currency to use as a basis for any discussion about luxury. The exhibition press release informs us, enticingly, that, ‘From a diamond made from roadkill to a vending machine stocked with DNA, a golden crown for ecclesiastical use to traditional military tailoring, over 100 objects will address how luxury is made and understood in a physical, conceptual and cultural capacity.’ It goes on to say that, ‘Essentially, the question of luxury is a personal one,’ which indeed it is, and while the sight of a concrete chandelier featuring real dandelion seeds applied by hand to LED lights (see image above) is unlikely to touch me, couturier Iris van Herpen’s Voltage Dress (see image above), a result of her perpetual collaborations with artists, architects and researchers, which is the manifestation of an experiment with the ability of light and electricity to change states and bodies, and is reproduced using the most innovative technologies, and Time Elapsed, described as ‘a large spirograph designed by Philippe Malouin for the Vienna-based glassware company Lobmeyr – that, incidentally, I’ve also had the privilege of visiting – which rotates to draw patterns made of sand,’ might just do the trick.



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

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



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Exhibition | Ear (+ Eye) Music

Friday, November 28th, 2014

Radio – Rural Electrification
Administration poster,

Lester Beall, 1937

Silkscreen print
Gift of the designer
© 2014 Lester Beall Estate /
Licensed by VAGA




Making Modern Music: Design for Eye and Ear
Museum of Modern Art
New York City | USA
Until 15th November, 2015




iPod, Jonathan Ive,
Apple Industrial
Design Group, 2001

Polycarbonate plastic
and stainless steel
Manufactured by Apple, Inc.
Gift of the manufacturer

Radio poster
Hiroshi Ohchi, 1954
Silkscreen print
Gift of the designer




Don’t you wonder sometimes,
‘Bout sound and vision…

… David Bowie asked rhetorically on his album Low in 1977. The unbidden response was encrypted somewhere within the 300+ archived objects, including handwritten lyrics, original costumes, fashion, photography, film, videos, set designs and his own instruments, on show at the retrospective exhibition David Bowie is, at London’s V&A in 2013, that is touring the world’s most prestigious museums. A sequel to the show, the eponymously titled film, was released this month and is currently being screened in over 40 countries across the globe.

This post, and the new exhibition at MoMA, Making Modern Music: Design for Eye and Ear, around which it is based, is not about David Bowie, nor is it about musicians, per se, but it is about the way in which – especially in the 20th and 21st centuries – music, design and technology, combined to produce objects and experiences that greatly altered our perception of what music is.

Sound and Vision is notable for its juxtaposition of electric guitar and synthesiser-led instrumental, overlaid with Bowie’s introverted lyrics. The exact origins of the electric guitar are obscure, but the idea was being played around with as early as the 1920s, and it’s fair to say that it became and remains the most important and popular instrument of the last sixty years. Its introduction signalled a major change in musical technology and has shaped the sound and direction of modern musical styles, as well as the look, presence and body language of guitarists – from Les Paul to Jimi Hendrix, to Slash and Synyster Gates – and the composition of bands, across the world; similar claims can be made for the synthesiser.

Radio-Phonograph (model SK 4/10),
Dieter Rams, Hans Gugelot, 1956

Painted metal, wood, and plastic
Manufactured by Braun AG
Gift of the manufacturer

Théâtrophone poster,
Jules Chéret, 1890
Lithograph
Printer Chaix (Ateliers Chéret), Paris
Given anonymously
© 2014 Jules Chéret /
Artists Rights Society (ARS)




With limited success, the concept of creating synthetic music was experimented with in the latter years of the 19th century. In the 20s, when the term ’synthesiser’ was born, people began to develop instruments that combined electronic sound generators and sequencers. Some four decades later, Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1962) had an un conventional soundtrack that featured bird calls and the noise of beating wings, all produced on the Mixturtrautonium, invented by German, Oskar Sala in 1952.

Later German electronic music pioneers, Kraftwerk, were formed in Düsseldorf in 1968, where the original line-up featured keyboards, including an early synthesiser, an electric flute and electric violin. In January, 2013, with reference to the group’s February concerts, Kraftwerk – The Catalogue 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8, in Tate Modern’s cavernous Turbine Hall, Neil McCormick, writing in The Telegraph, under the headline, Kraftwerk: the most influential group in pop history? explained that ‘the group’s style was driven by strong aesthetic choices, and a shift towards minimalism.In the same piece he described them as, A four-piece dressed in sober business suits, standing immobile at their technology stations, making synthetic music that was sparse, linear and rhythmic, yet decorated with enticing melody, writing songs that implied an almost mystical reverence for the ordinary objects of an industrial world,‘ an entirely new method of presenting music to an audience, complete with the most advanced technology available. Their first single, Autobahn (1974), however, was met with a mixed response. Nevertheless, Kraftwerk became quickly established as the pre-eminent electronic band of our times. Their ’sound painting’, musical compositions, using innovative looping techniques and computerised rhythms, had a major international influence across a wide range of music genres, paving the way for the DJs, who began to dominate nightclubs in the late 1980s. Meanwhile, the ‘bubble-machines’ that were used to create the immersive light projections of the psychedelic era, were superseded by strobe lighting and later by the mesmeric computer-synchronised laser shows commonly used to create atmosphere for live music events in the 21st century.

I will sit right down,
Waiting for the gift of sound and vision
And I will sing, waiting for the gift of sound and vision
Drifting into my solitude,
Over my head…

The combined gift of sound and vision was delivered, via the avant-garde ideas of furniture and interiors designers, product designers, graphic designers and architects, who made significant contributions in their respective eras to how we experience music, among them Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Serge Chermayeff, Dieter Rams, Saul Bass, Jonathan Ive, Frank Gehry and Daniel Libeskind. Its content drawn entirely from the Museum’s collection, Making Music Modern: Design for Eye and Ear gathers designs for auditoriums, instruments, and equipment for listening to music, along with posters, record sleeves, sheet music, and animation.

All images from the archives of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA.
Courtesy The Museum of Modern Art




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

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




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Books | Horst, Photographer of Nature

Friday, October 31st, 2014

Photographic pattern, (unidentified)



Horst: Patterns from Nature
By Martin Barnes
Merrell Publishing
Hardback + jacket
104 pages
50 duotone illustrations



Its title deviating by only the replacement of an apostrophe and an s with a colon, a new publication Horst: Patterns from Nature focusses in on a little-know series of photographs, nine of which appeared in the final pages of the 1946 book, Horst’s Patterns from Nature, augmenting them with a large number of mainly previously unpublished works made around the same time. The book is an expanded version of an essay by distinguished author Martin Barnes that appears in the main catalogue for the current exhibition, Horst, Photographer of Style at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, edited by Susanna Brown, and as such complements the exhibition, while considerably widening our knowledge of the photographer, his methods, and the breadth of his oeuvre.

Photographic pattern, (Calladium)



Photographic pattern, (Xanthosoma Lindenii)



Barnes’ short introduction, succinctly places the esteemed German-born photographer, the former Horst Paul Albert Bohrmann (1906 >1999) – who later took the name Horst P Horst – into historical context. He provides us with an insight into how, starting out as an architectural draughtsman in Le Corbusier’s Paris office in 1930, taught photography by his lover, the great George Hoyningen-Huhené, Horst rose quickly to recognition and fame, becoming friends with Marlene Dietrich, Nöel Coward and Coco Chanel. Barnes describes how, Horst fled German conscription and was spirited away by Vogue to America, becoming a US citizen in 1943. Best known for his slick studio-lit fashion and beauty images – the sexy Mainbocher Corset (1939) perhaps the most well-known – there is evidence to suggest, Barnes explains, that Horst embraced natural light and organic forms towards the end of World War II, as a way of associating himself with such untainted pre-war German cultural figures such as Johan Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 > 1832). Goethe’s definition of art: ‘Art is Nature seen through a temperament,’ is quoted by Alexander Lieberman, a Horst collaborator and art director of American Vogue from 1943 to 1962, in his blurb on the back flap of the dust jacket of the 1946 Patterns book. The front of this jacket is shown inside the new book, as well as a number of the double page spreads that appeared in it. For comparison, examples of work as they appears in books by other revered, early to mid-twentieth century photographers of nature are included, notably by Edward Weston, Paul Strand and German teacher and photographer, Karl Blossfeldt (1864 > 1932), who Horst acknowledged as an important influence.

Via repetition and mirroring techniques, and some influence from surrealism – Horst also collaborated with Salvador Dali – he pushed nature into the realms of semi-abstract pattern. Helpfully, by showing a succession of images – first the single original shot, then a group of four of these fitted together, the top ones a mirror image of those below, followed by a complete picture made up of sixteen images arranged on the same basic principles, Barnes demonstrates how the complete final images were made up. Some of these, in the run of plates, which make up over two thirds of the book’s content, are very graphic, while others are much softer, prettier, almost dream-like. Somewhat reminiscent of the images one sees in a kaleidoscope, but in square rather than circular format, not all of them are constructed solely from close-up shots of plants. For some the photographer has stepped back, thus changing scale in order to include, for instance, large palms trees, or palm fronds together with architectural details, or sections of a wicker chair.

Photographic pattern, (Prunus Pennsylvania Bark)



Photographic pattern, (Palm Trees)



Horst’s Kodak negative album of 1946, fits into the palm of the hand, and is reproduced at actual size in the new book, along with one of the negatives and a representative selection of the contact prints it contains. Barnes discovered that the negatives used to make the original large prints are not the same as those chosen for the construction of the complex patterned images that became the subject of the new publication. Ever the modernist, despite his respect for classical influences, Horst said of these: ‘[They] are photographs shown in simple repeat. The resulting patterns are immediately applicable to industrial fields, such as textiles, wallpaper, carpets, plastics, glass, ceramics, china, leather, bookbinding and jewellery.’ He went on to explain that they were also a demonstration of how modern design can be achieved through modern means. It’s possible that some of them may indeed have made it to a production line somewhere, but, so far, Barnes has been unable to uncover any evidence of this having happened.

Horst: Patterns from Nature is the end-result of inspired and painstaking investigative research by Martin Barnes, who, as it happens, is also Senior Curator of Photographs at the V&A. The images in this book are as surprising as they are beautiful. While the text in photography and art books can sometimes feel like unnecessary padding, here the writing is an integral and indispensable element of the package. Merrell Publishers are pretty choosy about what publishing projects they get involved in, and with obvious relish have gone to town on this slim volume’s production values, reproducing all of the images in exquisite quality duo-tone, spot-varnished on heavy matt coated paper.

All images from Horst: Patterns from Nature
All images © Conde Nast / Horst Estate



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

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



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Design | Japanese Posters in Situ

Friday, February 7th, 2014

Mitsuo Katsui
Air – I’m here,
1993



Japanese Poster Artists
– Cherry Blossom and Asceticism
Museum für Gestaltung Zürich
Zürich | Switzerland
12 February > 25 May 2014

One of my most treasured books is Japanese Graphic Design by Richard S Thornton (Laurence King Publishing, 1991). Delving deep into the country’s complex cultural history and traditions, it puts the entire subject – of which Japanese poster design is an extremely important ingredient – into clear historical perspective. But graphic works shown in books are one thing: seeing them, and especially posters – which ideally should to be viewed at full size to be properly appreciated – is an entirely different and sometimes surprising experience.

Having looked at some of them on the the Designboom website, on a recent trip into central London I made a wide detour to take in the OSPAAAL (Organisation in Solidarity with the People of Africa, Asia and Latin America) Posters Show of Cuban posters at the Kemistry Gallery, near Old Street, which specialises in graphic design-related exhibitions, and which I hadn’t previously visited. Entering, I found myself in a space not much larger than a double garage, albeit with a higher ceiling. I had expected the bold, colourful, politically-charged designs to hit me like a series of sledgehammers, but, equally-spaced on three walls, all in the same odd, elongated vertical format, the diminutive framed posters sang out like brilliant stained glass windows in a small side chapel, their power uncompromised by their compact dimensions. I had thought that perhaps, at the time of their production, paper was in short supply in Cuba, however the small poster format derives from their being folded magazine inserts in Tricontinental, OSPAAAL’s quarterly publication. The experience taught me something about the importance of context and strengthened my view that making the effort to see posters (and all art) in the flesh, rather than simply evaluating them at reduced size in books, magazines or on internet sites (as here), is infinitely more rewarding. As Ernest Hemingway wrote ‘it’s very hard to get anything true on anything you haven’t seen yourself’.

Shigeo Fukuda
Victory 1945, 1975

Draft Co Ltd
Une nana cool, 2002

Ken Miki / Shigeyuki Sakaida
Snow – Hokusetu Snow Mountain, c 2002


Dedicated poster museums are few and far between. There isn’t one in the UK. There’s the London Transport Underground collection at the London Transport Museum, and the collection at the V&A. (A poster which I designed with Phil Carter in 1979 for the RCA Automotive Design degree show is amongst this collection, but, for whatever reason, and despite my enquiries, no image is available on the museum’s website).

Abroad, it’s better. In New York City, you can visit Postermuseum.com – an actual gallery, as opposed to the virtual one the name suggests – established in Manhattan in 1973, which with 100,000 unique posters from 1870 to the present, claims to be the largest vintage poster gallery in the world. The Dutch Poster Museum at Hoorn, in the Netherlands, opened in 2003 and has around four different exhibitions per year. Founded in 1968, in 1999 the Musée de l’Affiche, renamed Musée de la Publicité, with a collection of 50,000 posters, was installed in permanent exhibition rooms designed by Jean Nouvel at Les Arts Décoratifs, rue de Rivoli, Paris. The Wilanów Poster Museum, a branch of the National Museum, is the world’s oldest, and hosts the Warsaw Poster Biennale, established in 1966. (Another of my posters, designed in 1977 for The New Contemporaries Exhibition at London’s ICA was accepted for the 1978 Biennale). There’s also the Ogaki Poster Museum in Japan, and the collection at the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, in Zürich, Switzerland, where the forthcoming show happens to be Japanese Poster Artists – Cherry Blossom and Asceticism. Here, contemporary posters and works by three ‘old masters’, Shigeo Fukuda, Kazumasa Nagai and Ikko Tanaka – all of whom feature in the aforementioned Richard S Thornton book – plus work by the renowned Tadanori Yokoo are amongst the 300 examples on show, covering the period from 1950 to the present.

Tadanori Yokoo
Japanese Culture
– The Fifty Post-War Years
1945-1995
, 1995


Rikako Nagashima
Be noisy. Laforet, 2012


The selected period is particularly apposite. While early Japanese posters were contiguous with traditional wood-block prints and were often hand-painted on paper, once lithography was introduced, posters in Japan began to resemble or mimic those of Europe and America. And when modernism swept though the country and took hold in most areas of design, commercial poster designers followed suit. However, when the rubble was cleared after World War II, a re-evaluation was made of traditional Japanese design principles. This was especially apparent in relation to poster design, where the commercial aspects began to be toned down, and the medium became the domain of artists. These printmakers, fused modern reproduction processes with Japanese craft techiques, and an intuitive sense of composition, to produce iconic printed creations that have earned their place in galleries.

I also own a copy of the book 100 Posters of Tadanori Yokoo by Koichi Tanikawa (Big O Publishing, 1978) which has an introduction by US design legend Milton Glaser. Its format is just under A3 (297 x 420 mm), which means that although Yokoo’s posters, typically 728 x 103 mm, were far bigger, at least one gets some feeling of their scale.

Japan – Nippon, with 122 pages and 120 illustrations, a preface by Bettina Richter, and an essay by Kiyonori Muroga is published with German and English text by the much-respected Lars Müller Publishers at CHF 35 / £24.00 / $40, to accompany the Museum für Gestaltung’s exhibition. It will undoubtably be a beautifully presented book, but the miniscule 165 x 24 mm format will demand a considerable feat of imagination from anyone who does not visit the exhibition, to understand how the posters were intended to be seen.

All posters courtesy Museum für Gestaltung Zürich Poster Collection


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

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

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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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Photography | Freud by Cecil Beaton & David Dawson

Friday, July 13th, 2012

An Artist’s Life: Photographs of Lucian Freud by Cecil Beaton and David Dawson
Sotheby’s London, UK
Selling Exhibition: until 11th August, 2012

It’s probably fair to say that David Dawson’s photographing daily life at Lucian Freud’s studio, and beyond, had its genesis in Bruce Bernard’s photographs of the great British painter. Freud (1922-2011) and Bernard (1928-2000) had been friends since their teens. Curator  and author of fine art and photography books, including his great Phaidon tome Century, Bernard (to whom, incidentally, I owe a debt with regard to my picture editing education – he was picture editor at The Sunday Times Magazine for the first couple of years I was there) sat – or more accurately, stood, in 1992 and sat in 1996 for Freud, having previously had his unusually large head immortalised by the artist in Head of Bruce Bernard, 1985. In the 1990s, Freud, famed for shunning the limelight, uncharacteristically, allowed Bernard, who had been taking photographic portraits of fellow Soho drinkers, artists and luminaries including Francis Bacon and Euan Uglow, to begin photographing him at work in his studio.

Having studied painting at the Royal College of Art – where he was a contemporary of Tracey Emin and Jake and Dinos Chapman – Dawson (b.1960) became Freud’s studio assistant in 1991. It wasn’t until some years later that Dawson – Freud by now used to have a photographer in his studio – picked up his own camera and began to record the day-to-day comings and goings and the work processes happening in front of and around him. After Bruce Bernard’s death in 2000, with unprecedented and now, exclusive, access – Bernard, in any case, having only been a visitor – Dawson was able to capture intimate moments: Freud in deep concentration, Freud applying shaving cream to his face with one of his large brushes (which, although we used it across a double-page spread in Tatler – where I was creative director – I suspect was set up, possibly at the behest of my editor-in-chief, Geordie Greig, himself a regular visitor at Freud’s studio) and to produce images that allow us to see the development of some of Freud’s later paintings.

Freud at Work, Photographs by Bruce Bernard and David Dawson was shown at Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert in 2006. Earlier this year, the same gallery showed Lucian Freud: Studio Life, Photographs by David Dawson. More recently Dawson’s image of Freud painting the Queen was selected for the Whitechapel’s exhibition of works from the Government Art Collection. A selection of Dawson’s pictures of Freud were also shown at the National Portrait Gallery in 2004. Twenty six of these, including those showing the artist painting Hockney and Queen Elizabeth II, and Frank Auerbach visiting the studio, were acquired for the gallery’s collection.

The unlikely juxtaposition of Dawson and Beaton’s photographs in this summer’s selling exhibition of limited edition prints at Sotheby’s, as much as it is revealing about Freud, provides an insight into the characters, aspirations and appetites of both photographers. Dawson comes across as a little shy and somewhat reticent, whereas, by all accounts, Beaton, who produced a prodigious number of self-portraits, was just the opposite.

Sir Cecil Beaton (1904-1980) has a staggering 1,050 portraits in the NPG collection. His career as a portrait photographer took off after meeting the Sitwells in 1926. He signed his first contract with Vogue in 1927 and was associated with the magazine throughout his life. Beaton had been in Hollywood in the 1930s, where he became obsessed with Garbo, whom he continued to photograph throughout her life. He photographed Katherine Hepburn and later Marylin Monroe, of whom he wrote: ‘She romps, she squeals with delight, she leaps on the sofa. She puts a flower stem in her mouth, puffing on a daisy as though it were a cigarette. It is an artless, impromptu, high-spirited, infectiously gay performance. It will probably end in tears.’ During WWII he worked for the Ministry of Information and afterwards took on the additional role of stage designer for film, ballet and opera. In 1965 he was awarded two oscars for his stage production of My Fair Lady. His work has appeared in countless exhibitions and books, the first of which, Beaton by James Danziger – another former Sunday Times Magazine picture editor, now running the eponymous Danziger Projects in New York – was published in 1977, the same year that Sotheby’s acquired the photographer’s estate.

Beaton’s photographs of Freud from the 1950s capture him alone, with friends, with family and with his second wife Caroline Blackwood at Coombe Priory, their Dorset retreat. Although Beaton claimed to be drawn to Freud, whom he described as ‘a true artist and a true Bohemian’ – in some of Beaton’s pictures his subject wears no tie, or if he does it’s ratty and his shirt appears somewhat creased – the painter is portrayed as a clean-shaven, well-quaffed, heroic and brooding figure with movie-star good looks. While Dawson’s photographs are not about Dawson – he often lurks in the background, content to simply tag along behind his elderly master – Beaton had other ideas. While some of his images affect reportage, each one of them is a carefully-controlled portrait. One of these in particular, makes Freud look particularly stiff and awkward as he struggles to look at the camera, in front of the lens of which, Beaton, in one of his surrealist moments, seems to have flung a cyclamen flower and a few leaves – almost definitely montaged in later – that in the final image float above the sitter’s head. At first sight, what appears to be Beaton’s least set up, least theatrical picture of Lucien Freud’s daughter, Annie, 3rd October, 195o, in which she sits on another animal’s back while stroking the nose of a zebra, comes as a refreshing surprise; then one realises that the photographer is playing his usual, for me disappointingly tiresome, games; the zebra is obviously stuffed. Not everyone is as lively as Monroe was but oh, if only Beaton could have allowed a little of the extemporaneous excitement he had captured in his shoot with her to seep into his photographing Freud – as Dawson did so successfully with Kate Moss in Having a cuddle with Kate, 2010… Mind you, some of Dawson’s pictures are more record shot than fine photography: Breakfast at Clarke’s with Stella McCartney, 2008, is just a snap, as is his picture of Bono and Freud breakfasting together. His Lucian Freud and Frank Auerbach at the V&A, 2006, however, has the ease and spontaneity of a Lartigue.

Images from top
David Dawson, Having a cuddle with Kate, 2010
Cecil Beaton, Coombe Priory, Dorset, 1956

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Design & Architecture | George Nakashima

Friday, June 8th, 2012

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

Previews for all the above start 9th June

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Images from top
George Nakashima bending wood, 1940s

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

Interior of the Conoid Studio at New Hope, circa 1960

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

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

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

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

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

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