Posts Tagged ‘Victoria & Albert Museum’

Exhibitions | Victoria & Albert’s Secret

Friday, April 8th, 2016

dominatrix ensemble
from House of Harlot
© Sister Sinister

A Brief History of Underwear

Victoria & Albert Museum
London | UK
16 April 2016 > 12 March 2017

In Serge Nazarieff’s classic book Early Erotic Photography (Taschen, 1993), aside from a little gauzy chiffon, the odd petticoat or gartered stocking tops, all the women shown are totally naked, many in full frontal poses. Reminiscent of anthropological studies, with little left to the imagination, the images  – although they almost certainly did at the time they were taken – paradoxically, emote no particular sexual excitement. As the designs of lingerie company Agent Provocateur, joint-sponsors of the V&A’s forthcoming exhibition along with Revlon, exemplify, underwear contrives to be far more provocative than actual nudity could ever be.

Shorty stretch brief
designed by DaDa

Jean Paul Gaultie
dress, 1989

Wearing underwear is generally understood as a mark of civilisation, but far from being developed for practical purposes female underclothing was originally developed as a fashion aid. The crinoline depended on a hidden wooden framework and eighteenth and nineteenth century wasp waists were made possible via the use of a substantial corset. American dance pioneer Isadora Duncan shed her restrictive corset in the 1910s, and while in the following decade Coco Chanel discarded it in favour of comfort and casual elegance in her clothing designs, Karl Lagerfeld would reintroduce the corset for the Chanel Spring 2014 Couture collection. Controversially, in the 1950s, to make it possible for women to wear his New Look, Christian Dior came up with the ‘waspie’, which may have been only five or six inches deep, but was usually worn over an additional, body-shaping panty- or roll-on girdle. Rather than by the mythical bra-burning of American women’s liberationists, the new independent spirit of the 1960s women was encapsulated in Mary Quant’s body stocking.

1950s Y-front point
of sale material

Side hoop petticoat
covered in linen,
retailed by A Schabner,
England, 1778

It has existed for centuries, and entry to its world had become freely available on the internet for anyone with the appetite to search, but the 2011 publication of the erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey initiated the masses into the ‘kinky’ side of sex, with the result that sales at lingerie and sex toy retailer Ann Summers, according to the industry monitor Draper’s, rocketed by a dramatic 78% year-on-year. However, with around 25% of sales, Marks and Spencer’s somewhat tamer women’s underwear continues to dominate the UK market.

Nylon and lycra
girdle, 1960s

Man’s linen shirt,
Great Britain, 1775 > 1800
and underdrawers,
France, 1775 > 1799

For this show, men’s underwear, too, is coming out of the closet and women, eager to get men out of their practical, supportive, but lumpy Y-fronts and into something softer and more appealingly-streamlined, have played a strong role in popularising current styles. Calvin Klein’s spring 2015 men’s underwear marketing featuring Justin Bieber might have been a clear homage to the brand’s iconic 1992 campaign featuring Marky Mark (Mark Wahlberg), but Kate Moss’s inclusion in the earlier video, wearing identical shorts to Mark, guaranteed the product’s success. In a tribute to Moss’s performance, last year Rihanna, who became a creative director for the brand’s women’s wear posed topless in a pair of men’s Puma undershorts.

Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear at the Victoria & Albert Museum will display more than 200 examples of underwear from custom-made 18th century items to pieces by designers such as John Galliano, Juicy Couture, Stella McCartney, La Perla, Rigby & Peller, Paul Poiret, Schiaparelli, Paul Smith, and Vivienne Westwood.

All images courtesy the V&A
All items © Victoria and Albert Museum, London, unless otherwise stated

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

Share this post
Facebook Twitter Linkedin

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
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

Share this post
Facebook Twitter Linkedin

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

Please leave a comment
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
Share this post
Facebook Twitter Linkedin