IMM Cologne kept us busy into February, but the month also saw the opening of an Eileen Gray retrospective in Paris, a visit to the Louis Kahn exhibition at the Vitra Design Museum and the sad passing of James Irvine….
Posts Tagged ‘Eileen Gray’
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II applied not only to Eileen Gray’s property but also her career, and in the post-war years she became increasingly withdrawn from the commercial market, dividing her time between her villa Lou Pérou near Saint Tropez and her flat in Paris, where she died on October 31st 1976.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.
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
Perhaps best known for her numerous co-operations with Le Corbusier, the Parisian architect and designer Charlotte Perriand played an instrumental role in developing the European modern movement: Not least as Charlotte Perriand is credited with converting Le Corbusiers modern furniture ideas into reality and so establishing the tradition of minimal, bent chrome steel tube and leather furniture.
Among the most famous of these collaborations are the from Cassina produced LC4 Chaise Longue, LC2 Armchair and LC7 Swivel Chair which Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand originally created for their “Maison la Roche” in Paris.
Charlotte Perriand with Le Corbusier was however only one chapter in a life and career that also involved collaborations with Fernand Leger and Jean Prouvé and stations in Moscow, Japan, Vietnam and Brasil.
And it is her time in Brasil that is the subject of an exhibition at the Gewerbemuseum in Winterthur which opens on July 4th.
“Charlotte Perriand und ihre Spuren in Brasilien” is essentially devoted to a flat she designed and built in Rio de Janeiro during the early 1960s. The exhibition curators have rebuilt the flat and its interior in 1:2 scale in Winterthur and use it to explore Charlotte Perriand’s approach to her work and the design philosophies that guided her.
On July 16th the Museum für Gestaltung, Zürich opens its exhibition “Charlotte Perriand: Designer, Photographer, Activist”. With an extensive accompanying programme the Zürich exhibition focuses less on Charlotte Perriand’s architecture and more on her furniture design, photography and her social commitment and activism.
Together the two exhibitions offer a rare chance to learn more about the life and work of one of the few women who could establish themselves in the male dominated, and heavily patriarchal society that was inter-war France. Women in France didn’t get the vote until 1944 – by which point Charlotte Perriand, as well as the Paris based Eileen Gray, had already not only established themselves but also helped define the modern movement.
Charlotte Perriand und ihre Spuren in Brasilien runs at the Gewerbemuseum Winterthur from July 4th until August 22nd.
Charlotte Perriand Designer, Photographer, Activist runs at the Museum für Gestaltung, Zürich from July 16th until 24th October.
And the two museums are only 25 kms apart. So a nice days walk during a Swiss holiday.
Which in the wake of the shock we received on our first day here in Köln didn’t go unnoticed among the thousands of invites to cocktail parties and sumptuous buffets at some of Cologne’s finer addresses we’re forced to deal with.
Established in 1990 from the dying embers of the 1898 established “Vereinigte Werkstätten für Kunst im Handwerk” (for the sake of convenience lets just call it a collective of designers) ClassiCon inherited the rights to produce the works of designers such as Eileen Gray or Otto Blümel. Not content to rest on their laurels however, ClassiCon were quick to cooperate with young, emerging talents such as Konstantin Grcic or Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby.
And it is this mix of established classics and modern innovation that has seen ClassiCon develop and expand over the last 20 years.
And is also one of the reasons a trade fair such as IMM Cologne needs companies like ClassiCon as a counter balance to the mediocre tat being peddled in other halls by men who think an expensive suit and an iPhone somehow makes them important and their products more valuable.
It’s not a second hand car show!
But back to quality designer furniture and ClassiCon.
To celebrate their 20th anniversary ClassiCon are now offering a 20 year guarantee on the Adjustable Table by Eileen Gray. One of the true classics of 1920s design, Gray originally created the Adjustable Table – as with the chair Roquebrune and the Petite Coiffeuse – for her own house in Roquebrune on the Cote d’Azur. With it’s chromium-plated steel tubing frame the adjusting of the Adjustable Table functions via a simple slot/rod mechanism; all beautifully set-off by a small chrome chain.
For such a product one really doesn’t need a 20 year guarantee – an Adjustable Table will outlive it’s owner - but it is still nice to see ClassiCon standing so squarely behind their craftsmen.
Elsewhere on the ClassiCon stand we were delighted to finally get to see Saturn by Barber Osgerby; and would have loved to have compared it to Otto Blümel’s Nymphenburg, only that was far too high up.
And as ever, there are an awful lot of cheats, crooks and bandits out there and so before investing in design furniture always check that you are buying an officially licensed original. The designs of Eileen Gray, for all the Adjustable Table, the Bibendum Chair or the Non Conformist chair are globally among the most illegally copied furniture designs.
Only ClassiCon however are licensed to produce the works.
And only ClassiCon offer a 20 year guarantee on their craftsmanship.
Below is a small promotional video made by the IMM Cologne team in which ClassiCon boss Oliver Holy explains a little about the company and their relationship to IMM. Clever cats that they are the IMM marketing team have released it on sevenload: and so we’ve not got round to ripping and subtitling it yet… but we’ll get there. But possibly not until we’re back in Leipzig with the better software. And so for now it is only available in German.
Twas the month before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
Save for a company from South Tirol,
In hopes that unwary Christmas shoppers would buy their illegal unlicensed copies of Bauhaus classics
In a lesser known version of his 1822 classic “A Visit from St. Nicholas”, Clement Clarke Moore eerily predicted events some 180 years later whereby, as part of a Christmas sales promotion, a “known” producer of unlicensed copies of Bauhaus classics advertised their cheap Chinese imports using phrases such as “Bauhaus furniture”, “Bauhaus classics” or “Bauhaus chairs”; all coupled with photos of the featured designers.
In February 2009 the Landgericht in Hamburg decided this was illegal as it deliberately led customers to believe that they were buying original, licensed products – when in fact they were buying cheap Chinese tat. In December 2009 the appeal judges upheld this decision.
And so, in Germany at least, one can only advertise and sell as “Bauhaus” official licensed originals of the works by designers such as Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Eileen Gray or Marcel Breuer.
We know from the conversations we have and correspondence we receive that the subject of licensed versus unlicensed products is a controversial one.
We also however know from experience that cheap, unlicensed products surreptitiously marketed under the designers name but which bear no relationship to the original designer, producer or indeed the production process, materials or machinery, are not only always poorly made -and so while they may be cheaper than an officially licensed product they represent much less value for money – but are in many cases also dangerous.
There is a reason the original designer objects cost more than the copies… and it isn’t pure greed.
As we say such court decisions are only made in Germany and so while consumers here have a degree of protection from those hoping to make a quick buck on the back of someone elses work, consumers in other countries are not. A situation hardly helped when large retailers such as amazon happily work with companies who market and sell products which, as with the Bauhuas designs featured in the Hamburg case, are deliberately marketed in such a fashion that the consumer believes they are getting something original when in fact they are getting something very cheap, very Chinese and potentially very dangerous.
And so take care when shopping this Christmas, especially with “too good to be true” online prices for designer furniture from Charles and Ray Eames, Arne Jacobsen or any of the Bauhaus protagonists; and before purchasing always check with the retailer if the products are original licensed versions – and if in doubt check with the licensed producer of the originals they can always advise if a product is genuine or not.
The Bauhaus lawyer sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, buy safely and to all a good-night!”
For the first time, the three German Bauhaus institutions – Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin, Museum für Gestaltung, Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau and Klassik Stiftung Weimar – are uniting to present a comprehensive Bauhaus retrospective. “Bauhaus. A Conceptual Model” recounts the story of the Bauhaus in a comprehensive presentation of the works of its masters and students – including a number of lesser known and not regularly displayed works. In addition the exhibition looks at principles that dominated the school and it’s work: inter-disciplinary, experimental teaching, the concept of practice-oriented workshops, the pursuit of answers to social questions, the propagation of timeless aesthetics as well as experimentation with new procedures and materials in architecture and design.
Few movements have left such a lasting impression on furniture design as Bauhaus from it’s short inter-war intermezzo.
Designs such as Mart Stams cantilever chair, the Bauhaus Lamp from Wilhelm Wagenfeld or the „Wassily“ chair by Marcel Breuer stand as testament to the quality and ingenuity of those involved. In addition popular (smow) products such as the Eiermann table frame or the new Eileen Gray range from ClassiCon have their roots firmly in Bauhaus and the approach to design and functionality that was developed there.
We’ve not seen “Bauhaus. A Conceptual Model” , however for the organisers “the early works of the Bauhaus masters are highlights. They document why Feininger, Klee, Kandinsky et al were summoned to the school as masters. Works by masters and students created during their sojourn at the Bauhus demonstrate the fast-paced creative development of the school. Among other objects, the “Gropius Folder” can be seen, which was presented to the director of the Bauhaus as a birthday gift in 1924. The visitor will be amazed by the “African Chair”, created and constructed by Marcel Breuer and the weaving artist Gunta Stölzl in 1921. For eighty years it was assumed to have been lost, and is quite contradictory to Breuer’s wide reputation as the designer of the steel tube furniture. Breuer’s first “Club chair” from 1926 can also be seen, as well as Johannes Itten’s four-metre-high “Tower of Fire” from 1920. The “Draft of a socialist city” by Reinhold Rossig and the “Bauhaus Dress” by Lis Vogler from 1928 are exemplary representatives of the unknown works that originated in the workshops.”
Which sounds fantastic
If your in or near Berlin, Germany the exhibition “Bauhaus. A Conceptual Model” runs until October 4 and is open daily. More information at http://www.modell-bauhaus.de/
It’s Dumfries Show on Saturday.
That won’t mean much to the most people, but for us it is a sure sign.
Winter is coming.
We know, we know. Barely have we got use to remembering to take our sunglasses to work, buying ice-creams for lunch or waking up at 5 am because we forgot to shut the curtains – again – than the Dumfries Agricultural Society hold their annual show.
And after the Dumfries show the evenings get shorter with increasing rapidity and before you know it the ground will be brown with dying leaves.
And so the time is surely rife to start thinking about lighting for the dark months ahead. Below are a few of our suggestions, in addition to our previous favourites from the spring design shows.
FL/Y by Ferruccio Laviani for Kartell
In the first half of 2009 Italian producer Kartell invested a lot of marketing effort into promoting their lighting range, or The Kartellights Collection to give it its correct name. Which is no bad thing. For most Kartell is all about Philippe Starck‘s chairs, Ron Arad’s Bookworm or Philippe Starck’s chairs, and too little attention is given to their lighting collection. One of the true highlights in the collection is FL/Y by Ferruccio Laviani. Made in transparent methacrylate, the cover of FL/Y is not perfectly hemispherical but, rather, the cut-off is underneath the height of the diameter allowing it to collect the most light. In addition, the special transparency of the material combined with the sheen of the colours bring to mind a soap bubble, iridescent with reflections of light. FL/Y by Ferruccio Laviani for Kartell is available in 9 transparent colours and opaque black and white.
It takes a brave producer to take what is in essence a table lamp design and scale it up to a floor version. But that is pretty much what the idea behind Talak Lettura by Neil Poulton for Artemide. At 139 cm high, the intention with Lettura is not a lamp to illuminate a whole room, but much more – and as the name implies – it is a floor standing reading lamp. [Lettura is Italian for reading for all who have not been to Milan] The lighting element itself is embedded in the vertical arm, and is available as either an LED or a fluorescent unit. The vertical arm can be rotated round 360 degrees meaning that you can position it over a desk for working/reading and then – assuming your room is correctly laid out – swing it round to allow you to continue to read in your favourite armchair. With its intense, warm light Talak Lettura not only adds an attractive ambience to a room on account of it’s stylish minimal design, but also through it’s illumination.
Having bought Eileen Gray’s Roquebrune chair to place next to your Eiermann Table you will of course be looking for the perfect lamp to complete your informal study corner at home. The WA24 by Wilhelm Wagenfeld was created by the young designer shortly after his admission to the Bauhaus workshop in Weimar. The result of an assignment given to him by Hungarian designer and Bauhaus Professor László Moholy-Nag, the lamp can in many ways be considred as ther starting point of Wagenfeld’s design career. As with almost all famous designs from the Bauhaus period, the Wagenfeld lamp’s are amongst the most copied of all industrialal designs, and purchasers should be wary of buying cheap replicas where quality craftsmanship has been sacrifice din favour of profit. All Wagenfeld lamps sold by (smow) are, as with all products (smow) sell, officially licensed originals – in the case of the WA24 by Wilhelm Wagenfeld that means from Tecnolumen, Bremen.
If we start a post with a sentence like “And now a lamp for those looking for a little different”, it can only mean one thing … moooi. On this occasion we’re going to forgo the insane beauty of Horse Lamp by Front and instead recommend Clusterlamp by Joel Degermark. If we’re honest when we first saw pictures of the Clusterlamp we thought it was a joke. A big, fat unfunny Dutch joke.
And then felt a little guilty after seeing it “in real life” as we realised that although it unquestionably posses the inventive genius of a Laurel and Hardy or Helge Schneider, it isn’t funny.
The PR text from moooi talks of it evoking experimentation with ambient expression, and while that may be true, for us the true charm of Clusterlamp is the fact that you only notice it when it’s switched off. We’re not going to pretend it looks particularly attractive, or that it is a lamp for every situation, but with it’s pleasant, inoffensive illumination and radical design Clusterlamp by Joel Degermark is definitely a lamp for …. you know the rest. Clusterlmap is available with a choice of three bulb sets (each set conatining five bulbs). The bulb sets can also be purchased separately for those looking to mix and match.
No they don’t light up, but what’s the point in creating a pleasantly lit environment if you can’t get comfortable with a good cushion or six. Vitra offer two ranges of cushions each covered with fabrics from US producer Maharam. The Maharam collection “Textiles of the 20th Century” is a range of re-issues of some of the most important designs in the Maharam archives. These include such classics as Geometri by Verner Panton, Small Dot Pattern by Charles and Ray Eames or Millerstripe by Alexander Girard. “Repeat” is a series of re-workings of classic designs from the archives of a Swiss mill by Dutch designer Hella Jongerius. For the Vitra cushion range three of the designs – stripe, hounds-tooth and dot ring – are available in range of colours. Both ranges offer not only exquisite design to finish off and compliment any interior, but also something soft and friendly to hold when you want to relax of a damp autumn evening after a hard days work. Depending on the design chosen the type of fabric does vary and so please check with (smow) before ordering.
As we stood looking at some mighty fine, but horribly over-carved, wooden furniture at the Salone in Milan a female colleague confided in us that all she needs is some leather straps and a few bits of bent metal.
Trying not to show our horror at this outburst of candour, we asked if she had a meeting with El Presidente that evening.
“No, no” replied our erstwhile colleague, “Bauhaus. That’s my idea of good design”
We recite this tale here principally to amuse ourselves, but also by way of a gentle introduction to the new smow Eileen Gray range.
Although for many Gray’s work will not as familiar as that of Marcel Breuer, Le Corbusier or Mies van der Rohe one should not underestimate the contribution made by Eileen Gray to the development furniture design in the 20th century.
Born in the barren wilderness of County Wexford, Ireland, Gray studied painting at the Slade School of Fine Art in London before moving in 1902 to Paris, a city that was to play a key role in her career.
Paris had already introduced her to the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh through his exhibition at the Exposition Universelle in 1900 and was to introduce her to Japanese lacquer artist Seizo Sugawara from who she learnt the art, combining it with elements of Art Nouveau. Paris was also to introduce her to the Romanian architect and publisher Jean Badovici who encouraged Gray to try her hand at architecture.
In 1924 Badovici and Gray started work on the house E.1027 on the southern French coast, not far from Monaco. In addition to being a magnate for the European design elite – Le Corbuiser was so impressed he built his summer residence nearby – a house needs furniture and Gray designed this to a great extent herself.
Through exchanges and conversation with the likes of Le Corbusier and the leading figures in the Bauhaus movement Eileen Gray not only created some of the true classics of early-20th century design but helped to define the Bauhaus principles of form follows function and less is more. And in doing so paved the way for following generations of designers such as Charles and Ray Eames or Jasper Morrison.
Following World War II Eileen Gray lived a quite, almost reclusive life, in Paris, and although she was still working she never achieved the same prominence as in the interwar years. Gray died in Paris in October 1976 aged 98.
Whereas the post war years brought little acclaim for her work, today articles by Eileen Gray are amongst the most copied pieces of early-20th century designer furniture. Which is probably the greatest testement one can make to the value of an article of designer furniture. It goes without saying that all the Eileen Gray articles sold by smow are, as with all articles smow sell, officially licensed originals with the associated guarantee of quality craftsmanship and competent after sales service.
The inter-war years were some of the most important and revolutionary for European furniture design. The social and cultural upheavals of the day coupled with the new perspectives and priorities resulting from the Great War not only gave us a wonderful portfolio of great design, but changed the very nature of the design process. Eileen Gray was a key figure in that period.
smow is now proud to offer the following, offically licensed, Eileen Gray products from ClassiCon, Munich.
Wendingen (Carpet 1926-1929)
Roquebrune (Chair, 1932)
Petite Coiffeuse (Dressing table , 1929)
St. Tropez (Carpet 1926-1929)
Occasional Table (Side table 1927)