Posts Tagged ‘ClassiCon’

(smow) blog Design Calendar: August 9th 1878 – Happy Birthday Eileen Gray!

Saturday, August 9th, 2014

As previously noted in these pages the (hi)story of modernism is largely one of successful male/female partnerships, the most famous questionably being Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich or Le Corbusier and Charlotte Perriand in the main period of inter-war European modernism and Charles and Ray Eames in context of the post-war American adaptation.

Yet it is also a (hi)story with only very few identifiable female leads. From the examples above Lilly Reich, Charlotte Perriand and Ray Eames are all popularly perceived as the “wee women” on the side of the creative male. At best responsible for the aesthetic, “female”, qualities that round-off the central, important, technical creative talents of the male. But only rarely individually acknowledged as the talented and successful designers, architects or artists the were.

There are of course some shinning examples of successful female modernist architects and designers who are accepted without the need of a male “qualifier” , the most notable being Eileen Gray.

Eileen Gray

Eileen Gray (1878 - 1976)

Born on August 9th 1878 in Enniscorthy, County Wexford, Ireland as the youngest of five children to the Scottish landscape painter James McLaren Smith and his wife Eveleen Pounden, the 19th Lady Gray, Eileen Gray studied at the Slade School of Fine Art in London before moving to Paris in 1902. Eileen Gray first achieved the attention of a wider public with her oriental lacquer works, a process she learnt first in London at the Dean Street workshop of a Mr. D. Charles and subsequently in Paris under the guidance of the Japanese lacquer master Seizo Sugawara. In 1913 the Paris fashion styler Jacques Doucet purchased her lacquer folding screen Le Destin and subsequently commissioned further works from her; commissions which not only helped Eileen Gray financially, but much more introduced her to an ever wider range of potential clients and customers. One such was a certain Madam Mathieu-Lévy who in 1919 commissioned Eileen Gray to redesign the interior of her apartment, Gray’s very first such commission and one that resulted in some of Eileen Gray’s earliest furniture pieces including the Serpent Chair, Bibendum Chair and the monumentally grotesque, yet somehow endearingly charming and lovable, Pirogue Sofa.

In addition to creating works on commission and for interior design projects in 1922 Eileen Gray established her own shop, Galérie Jean Désert – the “Désert” being a reference to the fond memories of her numerous trips to the deserts of North Africa, the “Jean” because she felt, not unreasonably, that a male gallery owner would be taken more seriously than a female. In addition to selling works by Eileen Gray and promoting her interior design services, Galérie Jean Désert also sold carpets sourced from artisan producers in Morocco. Although such shops were known in the Paris of that period, Eileen Gray was one of the very first designers to attempt to market their own work through their own shop, and certainly one of the first females anywhere to attempt such.

Eileen Gray Bibendum ClassiCon

The Bibendum Chair by Eileen Gray through ClassiCon

Eileen Gray’s first contact with architecture came through her relationship with the Romanian architecture critic and journalist Jean Badovici, an interest that achieved its first physical manifestation in one of Eileen Gray’s most celebrated works, the so-called house E-1027 in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin on the French Côte d’Azur. Teetering precariously on the rocks above the Mediterranean E-1027 is not just an architectural wonder and testament to Eileen Gray’s single minded pursuit of her goals, but also gifted the world some of her most important furniture designs, including the Non Conformist Chair, the Occasional Table and the E-1027 Adjustable Table.

Buoyed by the success of E-1027, and with Galérie Jean Désert suffering in the harsh economic climate of the late 1920s, Eileen Gray decided in 1929 to close Galérie Jean Désert and to focus on architecture rather than her artistic and design projects; a decision which subsequently led to some 45 projects from which seven were realised, mainly for herself, including the 1932 Villa Tempe a Pailla in Castellar and Villa Lou Pérou, Eileen Gray’s last architecture project and one which involved converting an abandoned cabanon in a vineyard near Saint-Tropez.

Villa E 1027 Eileen Gray

Villa E 1027 in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin by Eileen Gray

Being, as she was, a financially secure well educated, artistically inclined child born of the landed petite noblesse and living a single life in early 20th century Paris, Eileen Gray’s biography is awash with those tales and anecdotes that can only come from belonging to that class and that age: being made the subject of a poem by disturbing occultist Aleister Crowley, getting lost in the Tunisian desert and spending the night smoking hashish with nomadic tribesman, ballooning with Rolls Royce co-founder the Hon. Charles Stewart Rolls, or, and perhaps the most deliciously debauched behaviour of all, cruising the streets of Paris in her Chenard-Walcker convertible with her lover, the nightclub chanteuse Damia. Damia’s pet panther sat in the back seat. We can’t guarantee that’s true. It may just be apocryphal. But we do so hope it is true.

Post World War II it was a lot quieter around Eileen Gray, there were certainly no more “panthers in roadsters” episodes, and Eileen Gray was in real danger of slipping into an discourteous anonymity were it not for a delightful twist of fate. Following a 1968 review of her oeuvre by Joseph Rykwert in the Italian architecture and design magazine Domus, a 1972 Paris auction of Jacques Doucet’s estate saw Yves Saint Laurent acquire her Le Destin folding screen. A purchase which led to renewed interest in this “unknown” artist who so fascinated Yves Saint Laurent. Thus, just as the original purchase of Le Destin by a fashion styler led to initial interest in Eileen Gray, the purchase of Le Destin by a fashion styler led to renewed interest in Eileen Gray. In the final years of her life Eileen Gray struck up a friendship with the London based furniture dealer Zeev Aram, who subsequently acquired the exclusive rights to Eileen Gray’s furniture designs, designs which today are produced under exclusive license by Munich based manufacturer ClassiCon.

Eileen Gray died in Paris in 1976; however, thanks to the efforts of Aram London, ClassiCon and all those involved in trying to restore and repair E-1027, Eileen Gray remains as present, contemporary and effortlessly stylish as ever.

Happy Birthday Eileen Gray!

Eileen Gray Adjustable Table ClassiCon

The E-1027 Adjustable Table by Eileen Gray through ClassiCon

(smow) blog compact Berlin Design Week Special: Werkschau Sebastian Herkner at Rosenthal Berlin

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Since the late 1950s Bavarian porcelain manufacturer Rosenthal has cooperated with an impressive roster of international designers to create new objects and product families, notable cooperations including those with Raymond Loewy, Walter Gropius, Wilhelm Wagenfeld, Jasper Morrison or Patricia Urquiola.

One of the firms most recent collaborations is and was with Offenbach am Main based Sebastian Herkner.

A graduate of the Hochschule für Gestaltung Offenbach am Main, Sebastian Herkner established his own studio in 2006 where in addition to his much celebrated Bell Coffee Table, Bell Side Table and Bell Light collections through Classicon has also developed projects for manufactures as varied as Moroso, Pulpo, Böwer or La Chance.

The cooperation with Rosenthal represents Sebastian Herkner’s first foray into the world of porcelain design and the results can currently be enjoyed in a showcase at Rosenthal’s Berlin Flagship store.

The medial highlight of the cooperation is without question the Collana vase family, a combination of glass and porcelain in richly decadent yet quietly unassuming creations that work just as well as objects in their own right as they function as vases. Falda, a close relative of the Collana family presents a similar character, just replacing the quiet unassuming nature with a lot more rich decadence through the gold “collar”. Keeping things traditional Sebastian Herkner rounds off his first Rosenthal cooperation with the tea service Wan; a tea service that, again, combines glass and porcelain.

In addition to Sebastian Herkner’s work with Rosenthal the Berlin showcase also presents further examples of Sebastian Herkner’s canon including, for example, the aforementioned Bell Table, the Unam Chair for Very Wood by Gervasoni or Container for Pulpo. Presenting the objects as both finished products and in making off/prototype form the exhibition allows a wider, if all too brief, glimpse into the creative process as understood by Sebastian Herkner.

Werkschau Sebastian Herkner can be viewed at Rosenthal, Kurfürstendamm 200, 10719 Berlin until Saturday June 28th.

Konstantin Grcic – Panorama @ Vitra Design Museum

Monday, March 24th, 2014

One of the first telephone calls Mateo Kries and Marc Zehntner made upon assuming leadership of the Vitra Design Museum in 2011 was to Konstantin Grcic to discuss the possibility of an exhibition. Grcic was, in principle, open to the idea, but, “I didn’t want a static exhibition, something that froze my work in time, rather I wanted something dynamic”

That “something dynamic” is the exhibition Konstantin Grcic – Panorama which opened at the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein on Friday March 21st 2014.

Konstantin Grcic Panorama Vitra Design Museum Netscape Swings

The dynamic Netscape installation by Konstantin Grcic in front of the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein

Presenting some 200 objects divided across four thematic sections, Panorama is, in effect, two exhibitions in one. The first, staged downstairs in the museum, addresses design themes of particular importance to Konstantin Grcic. And which Konstantin Grcic believes should be of importance to us as all. The exhibition opens with Life Space, a look at Grcic’s considerations on the future of domestic arrangements before moving over Work Space, an exploration of Konstantin Grcic’s own work process which doubles up as a discussion on the contemporary design process in general, and on to Public Space, which addresses the future of our urban spaces. The “second exhibition”, staged upstairs under the title Object Space, looks at Grcic’s oeuvre in more detail, presenting examples of Grcic’s works, be they products for manufacturers as varied as Moormann, Magis, ClassiCon or Flos, objects created in cooperation with galleries or projects that have never had a life outwith Konstantin Grcic’s Munich studio. Grcic’s own work standing juxtaposed to and in context of other, third-party, objects that have a particular relevance to Konstantin Grcic, his understanding of and approach to design and which have inspired and motivated his own creativity.

The separation is not just spatial and conceptual but also stylistic. Whereas the first three sections are presented true to Grcic’s position that “my designs do not immediately reveal themselves” and require the visitor to first identify the issues involved and then consider their own position to the questions raised, the final section is a classic example of dry, perfunctory, museal presentation.

Both Konstantin Grcic and Vitra Design Museum Chief Curator Mateo Kries speak of the fourth section as an exhibition within an exhibition. And of having it been deliberately conceived in such an immediate and unchallenging manner.

We can’t help feeling it is meant ironically.

“Look at the Grcic retrospective. How cute!”, the designati will no doubt squeal…..

It is a delightful, clearly structured presentation from which we learned a lot about Konstantin Grcic and how he works, but which we cannot, and honestly never will be able to, take seriously.

A state of affairs we thoroughly approve of.

Konstantin Grcic Panorama Vitra Design Museum Object Space

The Object Space section of Konstantin Grcic - Panorama at the Vitra Design Museum

As with the exhibition Lightopia for us the biggest problem with Panorama is the lack of space in the Vitra Design Museum.
Konstantin Grcic speaks about Frank Gehry’s building as being a challenge, of if it having a character, rough corners and how he likes that. In a building and in an object.

But there is no escaping the fact that one of the Vitra Design Museum’s characteristics is a lack of space. It may suffice for the conservative exhibition format as represented in the Object Space section, but an ambitious project on the scale of Panorama simply needs more space.

Each of the four sections can make a valid claim to be an exhibition in its own right – in our time we’ve viewed exhibitions hung on much thinner premises – and despite the scaling back that has obviously been undertaken in the development of the exhibition concept, one still feels occasionally cramped, or at least a little unwelcome. As if you should read a text about the exhibition rather than trouble the aching, distended space with your bulk.

The Life Space section, for example, should, indeed must, be a display that one can walk around and explore, touch, sit on, inhabit, not just view at a distance from the comfort of a Bench B. While Work Space needs to offer, well, space to work, which it currently doesn’t. The layout making it more reminiscent of a warehouse than a workshop; dormant rather than dynamic. And that not because the curators lacked the nous to think up anything else. But because of space issues.

None of which should be seen as criticism of the exhibition itself. Far from it.

Panorama is not an exhibition that is going to necessarily bring you any closer to Konstantin Grcic’s work per se. Grcic himself yes. But not his work. But then that isn’t the point. It is not really an exhibition about Konstantin Grcic’s work. It is an exhibition about contemporary design and the contemporary designer. Konstantin Grcic is merely the conduit.

Design today is inflationary. There is ever more “design” because ever more aspects of our daily life are presented, sold and understood as design. Even if they patently aren’t. Consequently the term “design” and the function of the “designer” become unclear, confused, contradictory and ultimately meaningless and irrelevant. Panorama helps focus the mind on what design really is. Or perhaps better put what contemporary design should be.

What is truly important for the home of the future? How can new technologies be best employed, rather than just employed? What forms will new technologies allow? And which are desirable? Sensible? What does it mean today to “live” some where? What is “work”? Are we prepared to sacrifice our privacy for domestic convenience? How can design help us achieve what we want and require? What, and how much, responsibility do designers carry in such processes?

Such questions are extended by a series of boards featuring snippets from articles and academic papers that approach and tackle related social, cultural and economic issues: Can deserts power the earth? Is a world without businesses and factories conceivable? Is the cloud polluting the air? The virtues of squatting……

The exhibition doesn’t do anything especially deep nor does the exhibition tackle all issues in contemporary design far less raise any new ones, but then that’s not the point. It is an exhibition by Konstantin Grcic about those things that matter to Konstantin Grcic and which Konstantin Grcic wants us all to consider more carefully.

And it does that very effectively, with very simple means and in a very accessible, if challenging, fashion.

Panorama also makes perfectly clear that the future is also about each one of us personally accepting our own share of the collective responsibility. And one can only take responsibility seriously when one appreciates and understands the world around you. Something made singularly clear in the exhibition segment Public Space. Housed in the largest space in the Vitra Design Museum Public Space is dominated by a 30 meter long, 4.5 metre high fantasy cityscape by London based artist Neil Campbell Ross. In front of this cityscape have been scattered a few Chair Ones on concrete pedestals and Grcic’s experimental 2007 project Landen. That’s it. There is also a fence. Which we thought was just for decoration, a 3D extension of the painting if you will, the actual thinking behind its inclusion is however depressingly clichéd. And so we’ll ignore it. And in any case, the focus of the room is the cityscape and the questions it allows about the current state of our urban environments and how we want them to develop. On the information panels Grcic poses questions concerning, for example, ownership of urban spaces, the requirement for humane urban forms or future urban mobility. What do we want from our future cities? How each of us responds and reacts to such challenges will ultimately affect the nature of our cities, and so determine if we become the future we want. Do we really want to leave such considerations to designers? Who is actually paying designers? And so once again, do we really want to leave such considerations to designers?

Konstantin Grcic Panorama Vitra Design Museum Life Space

Life Space. Konstantin Grcic - Panorama, Vitra Design Museum

Conceptual exhibitions such as Panorama always run the risk of becoming an intellectual emperors new clothes: the curators stare long and hard in their navels and devise a big concept composed of the finest theories elegantly stitched with doctrines and ideologies, the masses flock and announce themselves overwhelmed by the majesty of the spectacle. But ultimately all one has created is a vast excess of narcissistic pomp.

Panorama avoids such a fate by avoiding answering any questions, far less presenting a vision of the future. That’s your job. “I hope”, so Grcic, “visitors take the exhibition as the beginning of a discussion and reflect on what is presented and decide if one agrees with our positions. Or not.”

Which all of course makes one thing very clear, Konstantin Grcic – Panorama isn’t an exhibition for lazy Sunday afternoon with a hangover. Or at least the first three sections aren’t. The fourth almost invites such a condition. But, and in all seriousness, if you want to get anything useful out of the exhibition you need to invest time and mental effort.

The exhibition runs until September, and so in that respect you’ve no excuses.

Konstantin Grcic – Panorama can be viewed at the Vitra Design Museum, Charles-Eames-Strasse 2, 79576 Weil am Rhein, Germany until Sunday September 14th 2014. Full details including opening times, ticket prices and information on the accompanying fringe programme can be found at www.design-museum.de

 

(smow) blog compact: Pegasus Home Desk by Ippolito Fleitz Group / Tilla Goldberg for ClassiCon

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

The first post in our, hopefully short, new series “Things we missed at IMM Cologne 2014″ is devoted to the new Pegasus Home Desk by Ippolito Fleitz Group / Tilla Goldberg for Munich based manufacturer ClassiCon.

We know why we missed it in Cologne, call it youthful arrogance, we just can’t believe we did.

Not only does the Pegasus Home Desk exude a formal parity with a horse saddle, but it functions as a sort of home office saddle bag – the leather desk top can be rolled up from the left and/or right side to expose the inner storage space. An inner space specially created and organised for the safe custody of all those electronic items that define our modern world.

Although we’re fairly certain you could also keep a few books in there. Assuming analogue is your thing.

Representing as it does a relatively rare foray into commercial furniture design by Stuttgart based Ippolito Fleitz Group, the Pegasus Home Desk was created by an in-house team under the leadership of Group Product Design Director Tilla Goldberg and as an object appeals to us largely through its easy combination of an accessible, familiar form language and an unobtrusive functionality, and it certainly would appear to represent a very positive addition to the ever growing genre of “home-office-desks-that-don’t-look-like-home-office-desks.”

Even if we do have more than a few reservations about the leather cladding on the frame. One can overdo visual analogies.

But then the leather cladding is optional.

And as we say, we have only seen photos and so, as ever, will wait until we see it in the “flesh” before forming a more definite opinion. Most importantly on the leather cladding.

We’re assuming that chance will come in Milan…………………

Pegasus Home Desk by Ippolito Fleitz Group Tilla Goldberg for classicon

Pegasus Home Desk by Ippolito Fleitz Group / Tilla Goldberg for ClassiCon (Photos © ClassiCon GmbH)

Pegasus Home Desk by Ippolito Fleitz Group Tilla Goldberg for classicon

Pegasus Home Desk by Ippolito Fleitz Group / Tilla Goldberg for ClassiCon (Photos © ClassiCon GmbH)

Pegasus Home Desk by Ippolito Fleitz Group Tilla Goldberg for classicon

Pegasus Home Desk by Ippolito Fleitz Group / Tilla Goldberg for ClassiCon (Photos © ClassiCon GmbH)

Passagen Cologne 2014: Alle Metalle / All Metal

Friday, January 17th, 2014

Revolutions in design and architecture invariably involve a new material. The oldest examples of this phenomenon being found in the context of metals: the Bronze Age and the Iron Age.

And in the 6000 years since man first learnt to mix tin and copper the fascination for and desire to work with metal remains as primordial as ever.

To celebrate the variety and durability of metal in design Frankfurt based Trademark Publishing recently released “Objects: Alle Metalle” an homage to classic and modern designs realised in precious and non-ferrous metals. Passagen Cologne 2014 is hosting the exhibition to the book.

Featuring a mix of furniture, lighting, accessories and decorative objects Alle Metalle / All Metal presents not only a nice overview of the myriad ways metal has been used in 20th century design, but also provides an insight into how metal obviously continues to inspire and drive the creative process: Poul Henningsen‘s Artichoke Lamp for Louis PoulsenSebastian Herkner‘s Bell Side Table and Bell Coffee Table for ClassiCon, Kai Linke’s Cosmo lamp, Tom Dixon’s Etch Lamp shade, Robert Dudley’s Bestlight through Gubi, CM05 HABIBI by Philipp Mainzer for e15. We could go on. And on.

The exhibition layout is based somewhat on the Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe concept, in that there doesn’t appear to be any organised layout or link between neighbouring objects, but that in no way distracts from the pleasure of the show, and ultimately as with Curiosity Shoppes the real satisfaction is often in the unexpected discoveries one makes during the searching.

Alle Metalle / All Metal runs at Bayenstrasse 65, 5th floor, 50678 Cologne until Sunday January 19th 2014.

For all who can’t make it to the exhibition full details on the book “Objects: Alle Metalle” can be found at www.trademarkpublishing.de [Info only in German.]

Centre Pompidou Paris: Eileen Gray. A Retrospective.

Friday, February 15th, 2013
Centre Pompidou Paris Eileen Gray

Eileen Gray. Paris, 1926 (Photo © Berenice Abbott / Commerce Graphics)

From February 20th until May 20th 2013 the Centre Pompidou Paris is presenting a major retrospective devoted to the Irish artist, designer and architect Eileen Gray.

As someone who once claimed “The future projects light, the past only clouds” we’re not 100% certain the subject herself would approve; however, for us it is a welcome and long overdue Eileen Gray retrospective, and fittingly one being staged in the city that more than any other influenced and defined her life, character and career.

Born in Enniscorthy, Wexford County in 1878 as the youngest of five children to the Scottish landscape artist James Maclaren Smith and his wife Eveleen Pounden – the future 19th Lady Gray – Kathleen Eileen Moray Smith grew up in comfortable surroundings, splitting her time between the family homes in Enniscorthy and London. By all accounts an independently minded young lady, a trip to Paris in 1900 to visit the Exposition universelle encouraged the 21 year old Eileen to study art and on her return to London she promptly enrolled at the Slade School of Fine Art.

In 1902 she returned to Paris to study at first the Académie Colarossi and subsequently the Académie Julian; and although the move to Paris was originally temporary and largely motivated by academic pursuits, the prevailing atmosphere in the French capital at the turn of the century coupled with the opportunities presented saw not only Paris become Eileen Gray’s new home, but France as a whole her adoptive homeland.

Whereas Eileen Gray is today probably best known for furniture pieces such as the Adjustable Table or Bibendum Armchair, she was a fabulously prodigious talent and in an active career encompassing some seven decades her creative output ranged from oriental lacquer work and weaving over photography, water colours and on to the more familiar architecture and furniture design.

The public phase of Eileen Gray’s career was largely played out in the 1920s and 30s: as with many of her contemporaries the destruction of the World War II applied not only to Eileen Gray’s property but also her career, and in the post-war years she became increasingly withdrawn from the commercial market, dividing her time between her villa Lou Pérou near Saint Tropez and her flat in Paris, where she died on October 31st 1976.

Fortunately, shortly before her death Eileen Gray was “re-discovered” by a new generation, a re-discovery which allowed her to regain her rightful place in the history of European art and design.

That Eileen Gray needed to be re-discovered is not that surprising. For all the fame and honour currently heaped on Modernist artists, designers and architects, back in the day they were pretty much a species for themselves. And certainly in the inter-war years when Eileen Gray was at her most productive they more often resembled a smug, self-contained clique than a revolutionary movement on the ascendancy. Yes, one or the other managed to raise their head above the parapet of popular perception; however, most sold works to people they knew and local museums without ever being picked up on any form of cultural radar. That all came later.

Which is one of the reasons why in-depth, imaginatively curated retrospectives are required. We simply know too little.

One of the few Eileen Gray retrospectives of note was staged in 2005 at the Design Museum London, a retrospective that caused Andrew Lambirth to write in The Spectator:

In the event, the exhibition is quietly exciting, though it leaves the visitor with the appetite stimulated rather than appeased. Oh for a full-scale display which does more than suggest the richness of this remarkable artist’s gifts.1

We’ve not seen the Centre Pompidou exhibition yet, and so, somewhat obviously, can’t comment on how well it either achieves its aims or serves up a toothsome and authentic taste of the subject matter.

However, looking at the list of exhibits and the room plans, they certainly have all the right ingredients for a fascinating and informative exhibition. And so we’re quietly optimistic that Eileen Gray at the Centre Pompidou will ease our colleagues hunger.

On a side note, Andrew Lambirth’s review of the Design Museum show is titled “Shades of Gray” – which is of course only a “5″ and “0″ away from being the pun we’re most expecting to see in relation to the Centre Pompidou exhibition.

Just to be clear, “Cinquante nuances de Grey” is not a clever pun.

Curated by Cloé Pitiot, and featuring over 200 objects including photographs, sketches, furniture and architectural plans, Eileen Gray at the Centre Pompidou is organised, more or less, as a two act, chronological stroll through the life and career of a most remarkable woman.

Opening with her lacquer work the exhibition then moves over the influence and role played by both the art collector Jacques Doucet and the Galerie Jean Désert – opened by Gray in 1922 and scene of some of the most important developments in her career – before reaching perhaps Eileen Gray’s most lasting and endearing monument, the villa E 1027 in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin.

The second part of the exhibition is devoted to two further architectural projects, Lou Pérou and Tempe a Pailla; the two men in her life, Jean Badovici and Le Corbusier; and two sections devoted to what one could call more personal aspects: rarely seen examples of her painting and photography and “Le portfolio d’Eileen Gray” a private collection Eileen Gray compiled of, well mementos, and other private, personal insights of and into her projects.

Villa E 1027 Eileen Gray Centre Pompidou Paris

Villa E 1027, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin (Photo Fonds Eileen Gray / Guy Carrard)

Back in May 2012 in our report from Gerrit Rietveld – The Revolution of Space at Vitra Design Museum, we noted that it was probably a good thing that Gerrit Rietveld decided against joining the happy clappy Bauhaus troupe. Similarly it is to be thanked that Eileen Gray choose to spend the 1920s and 30s in France rather than Eastern Germany.

For, emancipated from the dogma of Bauhaus, and free to float on the gentle breeze of innovation and change wafting over Europe, Eileen Gray was to develop into one of the most interesting and versatile creative minds of her age and an artist who, unquestionably, moved more freely and competently between the conflicting fronts of the Arts and Crafts and Modernist movements than any of her contemporaries.

Yet is an artist who today remains a mystery. A symbol of a time represented by some iconic objects but little known beyond.

As we implied at the beginning, Eileen Gray was not someone who necessarily cared to deeply for the past. In the exhibition press notes her biographer Peter Adam quotes Eileen Gray as once saying, “I like doing things, I hate possessing them. Memories cling to things and objects, so it is best to start all over again.” For our part we’re glad that the Centre Pompidou have chosen to ignore this personality trait to try to help us better understand the complete character and her canon – through the memories attached to the exhibits.

If you happen to be in Paris this spring, finding an afternoon to visit the Center Pompidou might not be the worst decision you make.

The exhibition Eileen Gray can be viewed at the Centre Pompidou Paris until May 20th 2013.

Full details can be found at www.centrepompidou.fr/en

1 Andrew Lambirth “Shades of Gray”, The Spectator 24 September 2005 http://www.spectator.co.uk/arts/18941/shades-of-gray/ Accessed 14.02.2013

eileen gray Dressing table screen Centre Pompidou Paris

Dressing Table/Screen by Eileen Gray, 1926-1929 (Photo © Centre Pompidou /Dist.RMN-GP © DR)

Eileen Gray Adjustable Table Day Bed Paravent en briques Classicon

Occasional Table, Day Bed and Paravent en briques by Eileen Gray through Classicon

V&A Museum London: British Design 1948-2012. Innovation in the Modern Age

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

At the end of March the V&A Museum London opened the exhibition “British Design 1948-2012. Innovation in the Modern Age”, their major summer exhibition and a central pillar of their celebration of all things British throughout 2012.

Documenting the story of design in the UK since the last London Olympics, “British Design 1948-2012″ begins in an era when Britain as a nation was recovering from the trauma of the Second World War, yet understood that in the rubble of the war lay the chance to renew its society and economy and so build for a brave new future.

And walking round “British Design 1948-2012″ one is confronted by the inescapable truth that it was this process of renewal that was to lay the foundations for the story of modern British design.

For through the social re-organsiation, massed immigration, youth unemployment, et al the first youth sub-cultures emerged and as the exhibition makes very clear it is culture, specifically youth culture, that has been the biggest definer in the story of British design since the war.

A few years ago John Major famously spoke of Britain being about long shadows on cricket grounds and warm beer. There is no reference to such aspects of the British psyche in “British Design”, save a fleeting if heartfelt appeal from Laura Ashley and a few contemporaries who were obviously struggling to come to terms with the decline of the empire, erosion of social boundaries and uncouth brutalist architecture sweeping the nation.

Their flirtation with a historical revival however is nothing more than an interesting blip on an otherwise uninterrupted trajectory. As Leith’s leading cultural commentator would no doubt put it.

We’re not saying that all British design episodes have had their origins in youth culture.

Nor are we saying that Britain’s best designers were even influenced by the island’s youth. Jasper Morrison, for example, became the designer he is because he visited a Memphis Group exhibition in Milan and then spent time in Berlin with Andreas Brandolini, Axel Kufus and other members of the “Neues deutsches Design” movement.

However what is unmistakable is the thread of youth culture that runs through the story of British design right up to the present day.

Well, no that’s not entirely true.

Somewhere in the late 1990s the thread vanishes, but we’ll come to that….

V&A Museum London British Design 1948-2012 Innovation in the Modern Age london john piper the englishmans home

A section from "The Englishman's Home" by John Piper greets visitors to "British Design 1948-2012: Innovation in the Modern Age" @ the V&A Museum London

Taking a very wide definition of “design” and then squeezing as much as they can out of the sub-categories “British Design 1948 -2012″ is reminiscent of an Essex Plaice – much wider than it is deep.

A fact that doesn’t necessarily harm the exhibition or the visitor experience. It is after all a special thematic exhibition.

In a soon to be published interview, the director of a major European design museum tells us that, in effect, the role of museums is to use their collections to tell stories; they just need to decide which stories they want to tell. The V&A has decided to delve into the depths of its British collection to place post-war British design in its social, cultural and historical context

And has done that very well.

From the brutalism of the 1950s over the swinging sixties onto seventies punk, eighties rave, nineties Cool Britannia, and beyond the exhibition presents over 350 exhibits that wonderfully explain the development of design in the UK.

And ultimately poses one very obvious question. The 1948 Olympics and subsequent Festival of Britain kick-started the post-war British economy. What will the 2012 Games bring?

There is a great deal of expectation on the British Isles that the 2012 Olympic Games will also herald a brave new age.

They wont.

All the objects in the early decades of the exhibition were produced in the UK. We suspect largely out of necessity; there was no alternative. Today goods can be produced abroad. And the creations of the leading contemporary designers largely are.

Barber Osgerby currently work with Vitra, Magis, ClassiCon, flos. Benjamin Hubert with De Vorm, De La Espada, &Tradition. Doshi Levien with Moroso, Cappellini, Richard Lampert.

We approve. That’s good. And is a situation that, if we’re all honest, is unlikely to change. But does mean that regardless how successful British designers become, their contribution to the UK’s GDP will remain negligible.

Then there is the nature of British design, for as the exhibition beautifully illustrates, Britain’s “contemporary design tradition” is largely based on creating iconic, stylish and attractive objects. “British Design 1948-2012″ doesn’t feature any objects that one could say are truly innovative or started any particular global design movement.

“What about Concorde?” We hear the Daily Mail readers at the front of the class cry.

“Co-developed with the French and while unquestionably an iconic symbol of luxury air travel, what did Concorde actually contribute to modern aviation?” We reply.

And Jonathan Ives may have been knighted for his services to design: but he of course doesn’t create what happens inside apple products. Just ensures that they look good. Or, put another way, creates iconic, stylish objects in the finest British design tradition.

As we’ve often stated, in the decades after the war increasing disposable incomes and social security created a market for consumer goods of the sort the likes of Mary Quant or Terence Conran were producing.

And the British youth with their unfaltering ability to transform harsh social reality into creative energy provided the musical backdrop. British design became part of a British style that was the envy of the world.

First punk and later rave may have superficially torn up the rule book; were in reality still based on standardised iconic symbolism underscored by new genres of music and literature.

Which means that to remain truly distinctive and desirable British design needs its yoof.

Oh, hang on…..

As we said, sometime in the mid 1990s one loses track of the youth culture thread. And while we’d love nothing more than to blame Damien Hirst and his YBA cronies. We can’t

The problem is the internet, a medium that by its very nature snubs out youth cultures before they have a chance to establish themselves. The increased pace of our digital world meaning a mass movement like rave, arguably the last great youth culture and one which catapulted designers such as Tom Dixon into the limelight, will probably never again be possible.

And without the youth sub-cultures….

The “British Design 1948-2012″ exhibition design was created by Ben Kelly. Who designed Malcolm McLaren & Vivienne Westwood’s Kings Road boutique SEX. And the interior of the Hacienda.

We can’t think of a more appropriate example for the importance of youth sub-cultures in guiding the fortunes of British designers.

V&A Museum London British Design 1948-2012 Innovation in the Modern Age FAC 51 Hacienda Ben Kelly

Part of the Hacienda interior as created Ben Kelly. And as displayed at British Design 1948-2012 Innovation in the Modern Age. Exhibition design by .... Ben Kelly.

We’re not saying the situation is hopeless. British designers will undoubtedly remain very much in demand. But their careers will become increasingly dependent on foreign producers, producers whose commissioning decisions are based on global marketing and sales strategies rather than the organic, grassroots movements that established British design’s reputation. As such the “British” in “British Design” will become increasingly difficult to define. But that is a question of national pride. Not design theory.

Consequently, “British Design 1948-2012. Innovation in the Modern Age” can either be viewed as the documentation of the past sixty years of British design combined with an attempt to place British design in a global context as the curators intended. Or as the first major retrospective of the Golden Age of British Design.

Either way it is an important exhibition and definitely worth viewing.

British Design 1948-2012. Innovation in the Modern Age runs at the V&A Museum London until August 12th 2012.

V&A Museum London British Design 1948-2012 Innovation in the Modern Age concorde

Getting ready to sail off into the sunset? A scale model of Concorde at British Design 1948-2012 Innovation in the Modern Age

Dark Lime Vitra Panton Chair Cocktail Competition: Jay Osgerby’s Caipirissima

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

London based design studio Barber Osgerby stands as a testament to the fact that high quality work will always win through, with or without the media status “star designer”

While its fair to say that many of their contemporaries have been placed on international glossy magazine pedestals, Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby have remained largely in the shadows, quietly producing consistently high quality work for both international producers and private customers.

That is however slowly changing and Barber Osgerby are now getting the public recognition they unquestionably deserve.

The pair first achieved a wider public with their award winning De La Warr Chair through Established & Sons in 2005; however in the course of their career Barber Osgerby have built up strong relationships and delivered highly individual collections for companies as varied as Capellini, Magis or ClassiCon.

In 2010 Barber Osgerby completed their first project for Vitra – the Map Table and Tip Ton Chair.

The launch of Map Table and Tip Ton Chair in Milan came shortly after the announcement that Barber Osgerby had won perhaps their most prestigious contract thus far: the commission to design the Olympic Torch for London 2012.

In July 2012 Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby’s torch will light the Olympic Fire – but here and now in July 2011 you can light your own fire with Jay Osgerby’s Caipirissima

And if you share your favourite cocktail recipe us you could win a limited edition Dark Lime Panton Chair from Vitra.

Full details on how to enter our summer competition can be found here.

Good Luck!

Jay Osgerby’s Caipirissima

2 measures of White Rum

1 measure of Sugar Syrup

1 Lime

0.25 measure of lime juice.

Cut the lime into eigths.

Muddle the lime and sugar to release the juices and oils in the skin of the lime.

Pour rum and extra lime juice into glass, add crushed ice and stir.

The London 2012 Olympic Torch by Barber Osgerby

The London 2012 Olympic Torch by Barber Osgerby

Tip Ton by Barber Osergby for Vitra

Tip Ton by Barber Osgerby for Vitra

Christmas is coming the goose is getting fat … here you can hang your Christmas hat

Friday, November 26th, 2010

What would Christmas be without hats?
Father Christmas, his elves, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Dave Hill…. Even the shepherds and wise men.
All bemillinered.

And so what could be a more festive gift than a hat rack and/or hooks.

Hut Ab by Konstantin Grcic for Moormann

Hut Ab by Konstantin Grcic for Moormann

Hut Ab by Konstantin Grcic for Moormann

Hut Ab is both German for “Hats Off” and a genial space saving coat and hat rack by Konstatin Grcic. When not in use Hut Ab can be folded flat and stored.
When in use, Hut Ab offers numerous options for hanging and holding coats, hats, scarves, elves etc…

Hut Ab is available from Moormann in untreated ash or oiled walnut.

Nymphenburg by Otto Blümel through ClassiCon

Nymphenburg by Otto Blümel through ClassiCon

Nymphenburg by Otto Blümel through ClassiCon

For those who prefer their hat stands a little more classic Otto Blümel’s 1908 Nymphenburg is a wonderful example of late Art Nouveau design. From 1907-1914 Otto Blümel was head of the illustration department at the Vereinigten Werkstätten für Kunst im Handwerk zu München – at the time one of the most important collections of artisans in southern Germany – and it was during this period that Nymphenburg was designed.

Created from nickel-plated brass Nymphenburg passes just as well in a classically styled villa as in a modern loft.

Hang it All by Charles and Ray Eames through Vitra

Hang it All by Charles and Ray Eames through Vitra

Hang it All by Charles and Ray Eames through Vitra

One of the true design classics Hang it All from Charles and Ray Eames was initially developed to encourage children to “Hang All” their belongings up – but it wasn’t long before adults were also drawn to its infectious good humour. A lot larger than you may imagine, Hang it All is perfect for all those looking for an informal hat storage solution.

The USM Haller hat rack - a smow speciality

The USM Haller hat rack

USM Haller Hat Rack.

The true beauty of the USM Haller system is its flexibility. Once you have at least one USM Haller unit your further options are truly only limited by your imagination. And the USM Haller hat rack – a (smow) speciality – is the perfect gift for all hat wearing USM Haller fans. Crafted from standard USM Haller components the USM Haller hat rack can not only be extended to allow storage of coats and scarves – but can also be effortlessly incorporated into any future USM Haller sideboards.

Happy Safer Internet Day 2010 – Think before you Post

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010
Safer Internet Day 2010

Safer Internet Day 2010

9th February 2010, Brussels

Under the motto “Think before you Post” the from the EU funded  Safer Internet Day 2010 is focused primarily on how one deals with privacy in the internet, especially as concerns young people, photos, social networking sites and chatrooms.

Which is naturally a positive thing.

In essence one of the core reasons that people for all kids, run into problems on the internet is because they blindly believe everything they read.

Previously “the camera never lied”, we know now they can; and so we have transferred our faith in the internet.

But it does as well.

And not just children are naive in their relationship with the internet.
Many adult internet users are, psychologically, at an earlier development stage than most children when it comes to computers and modern technology.

Alone the regularity with which users are taken in by so-called “phising” emails illustrates how many adults simply do not understand the risks that can hide behind a little bit HTML or a clever flash graphic.

The webpage looks nice – it must be genuine.

Mart Stam copies awaiting collection... Bauhaus era products are amongst the most copied designer furniture classics

Mart Stam copies awaiting collection... Bauhaus era products are amongst the most copied designer furniture classics

One of the areas that has blossomed over the internet is the trade in illegal copies of designer furniture classics; for all Bauhaus classics and the works of Charles and Ray Eames.

And regardless how often warnings are given thousands of consumers waste their money – and all too often risk their health – by purchasing the cheap copies.

There are however a few pointers that can help you identify who is genuine and who is only looking to make a quick buck at your expense.

As a general rule the copies are described as being “inspired by” or “in the tradition of” the actual designer: That is assuming that the designers name or the producer is even named; for if the crooks don’t use names, it’s more difficult for the license holder to press charges.

Generic names provide safety for the criminals: but also a large clue for the consumers.

The second big clue is the price.

If the price is too cheap to be true – it’s probably an illegal copy.

There are reasons that some designer furniture pieces cost what they do – and they’re not all to do with greed.

In addition to the investment in the development process necessary to bring such a product on the market; designer furniture is made from durable, expensive, materials. Which is also your guarantee of a quality product that should outlive you and possibly even your children.

The cheap copy may not even see the week out.

The third test is the answers you receive from the customer service department. If the retailer is selling officially licensed products they can prove that and will have no problem providing full answers to questions. The crooks will duck and dive and assure you that all is OK…without being able to back it up.

(smow) only sells officially licensed products from producers such as Vitra, Kartell, Artemide, ClassiCon or Tecta.

Beware of illegal Eames Lounge Chair copies

Beware of illegal Eames Lounge Chair copies!!! (these are however legal artworks, made from Vitra originals....)

And have no problem answering questions and providing proof that the products are genuine.

An interesting side-project of Safer Internet Day is the cooperation with INHOPE, the International Association of Internet Hotlines.

INHOPE acts as a central registration point for reporting websites with illegal content.
Again principally geared towards protecting children in the internet, there is no reason why users cannot report websites offering illegal copies of designer furniture.

Or perhaps better, tell us.
Should you discover a website offering illegal copies of designer furniture classics let us know, and we’ll not only report them to the responsible authorities but also build a databank of such sites to help consumers shop safely.
And then hopefully we can all have an even happier Safer Internet Day 2011