Mass-produced midcentury furniture by the Italian modernist Carlo Mollino can cost a few thousand dollars per piece, and his prototypes and custom works cause greater market stirs.
In 2005 and 2008, Christie’s in New York got seven-figure prices for 1940s oak and maple tables that Mollino created for a marquis in Turin. The designer worked in a vocabulary of hairpin turns, spikes and flanges. He was also notoriously moody and obsessive, and a daredevil who flew experimental planes, scaled mountains and raced cars.
His colorful biography adds to the appeal of the objects. “They have a huge aura about them,” said Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, the founder of the Salon 94 galleries in Manhattan.
A show with a few Mollino works from around 1950 (with five- and six-figure prices each) opens on Thursday at the Salon 94 branch on East 94th Street; display cases were designed by the British architect David Adjaye. The exhibition includes an ash bentwood chair and a resin-and-glass bookcase, made for a Turin publishing house, and aluminum boomerang light fixtures from a textile magnate’s apartment in Turin.
On Oct. 23 the Italian government blocked an auction at Christie’s in London that featured 30 pieces of 1950s Mollino furniture, which had long been installed in an Italian industrialist’s country house in the foothills of the Alps. The works, including oak and chestnut tables, chairs, cabinets and ceramic coat hooks, were deemed by the government to be treasures that could not be exported. (They were returned to their owner.)
On Dec. 10 Sotheby’s in New York will offer four 1940s oak chairs (estimated at $100,000 to $150,000 for the set) with split backs that a private collector found years ago at a Los Angeles tag sale. Mollino used the split-back design in ski resort and restaurant interiors, but no one knows where the tag-sale chairs originated.
The first American exhibition devoted exclusively to the work of one of the most influential and innovative figures of post-war French design. Featuring rare examples presented in historical living environments, the exhibition encompasses thirty unique pieces–many of which have never before been shown publicly–bringing to light the remarkable works of an oft-overlooked Modernist.
Born in France in 1925, Motte was part of a younger generation of post-war designers dedicated to an optimistic vision of industrialization and modern design’s ability to improve the lives of the masses. Following the reconstruction period, this group of designers embraced mass production as well as newer, affordable industrial materials as a means of realizing radically inventive forms.
A stolid devotion to contemporary forms, expressed using both traditional and newly invented industrial materials, established Joseph André Motte as one of the most visionary figures of his generation. Joseph André Motte: The Art of Living highlights the diverse breadth of materials that characterize Motte’s oeuvre and presents many of his most significant innovations in modern style. Featuring rare examples of Motte’s early work in rattan of 1954 to his transition to production furniture with Charron in 1958-60, the show is divided into two spaces that each focus on a distinctive period of this illustrious designer’s oeuvre.
Based on a 1954 Charron presentation, the first space will focus on Motte’s early work in plywood and rattan, and will feature a pair of the iconic 1949 Tripod Chairs and the 1954 rattan Sabre Chair, placed within a living room interior. These iconic designs exemplify Motte’s distinctive use of traditional techniques used to craft innovative modernist forms.
Motte’s designs for mass production and his experimentation with new affordable materials such as plastic, foam, and Formica will be represented in the second space, which will focus on Motte’s designs of the 1960s. This environment presents a 1960s chambre and includes a rare vinyl bed, the 1959 Light Table and a pair of nightstands made in luminous white opaline glass.
Joseph André Motte: The Art of Living, November 8 – February 9, at Demisch Danant, New York
Exhibition in collaboration with Princeton University about the way Playboy magazine used architecture and design as important tools to shape a new identity for the American male. Playboy Architecture, 1953-1979 explores the crucial role of modern architecture–buildings, interiors, furniture, cities and product design–in constructing the Playboy imaginary. The exhibition shows how architecture was mobilized to shape a new sexual and consumer identity for the American male and how architectural taste became critical to success in the art of seduction. Through an extraordinary quantity of architecture and architects featured in Playboy, the magazine played an important role in informing the public, particularly American men, about design and architecture in relation to literature, politics, art, lifestyle and fashion. Looking at the changing nature of Playboy architecture not only provides a way of understanding how Playboy’s project changed from the mid 1950s to the late 1970s; it also reveals how Playboy’s idealized world became a reality that was ingrained into America’s national identity and had a massive global impact.
Playboy Architecture 1953-1979, September 29 – February 10, at NAiM/Bureau Europa, Maastricht, Netherlands
Manuel Bougot’s interest in Le Corbusier’s architecture began in the 1980s when he worked on Caroline Maniaque’s thesis in architecture–on the Jaoul Houses built in 1954 in Neuilly, France. From 2006 onwards, Bougot renewed his interest in Le Corbusier, attending talks on Chandigarh and photographed the only building the architect ever built for himself — a cabanon (a summer cabin) in Roquebrune- Cap-Martin. Photographing Chandigarh was therefore necessary to further any understanding of Le Corbusier, the urban designer and his philosophy about architecture and modernism.
The idea of creating Chandigarh, a new city post Independence, free from the shackles of history, unbound and a symbol of modernity belonged entirely to Jawaharlal Nehru. In 1949, on Nehru’s invitation, Swiss-French architect, Le Corbusier began his Chandigarh experiment, which became an extraordinary laboratory of architecture and town planning. Together with his cousin, Pierre Jeanneret and a team of architects, Le Corbusier conceived and designed a way of living for a people whose culture and life he was completely unfamiliar with. Sixty years later, it is this human encounter with Corbusian architecture, which intrigued Bougot enough to keep returning to Chandigarh over two years to make photographs. Apart from photographing the landmark institutional buildings that define Chandigarh, Bougot also takes the viewer into private spaces — homes and villas, which borrow elements from the Corbusian vocabulary. It is through this navigation of public and private spaces that Bougot’s photographs explore the discordance between the architecture and utopian ideals that inspired it. At the same time, Bougot does not shy away from observing the neglect of the monuments of high modernism in India. Bougot’s photographs don’t dwell on nostalgia and his gaze is not uncritical. His carefully constructed and muted colour photographs reveal much more on closer inspection–a highly nuanced and refreshingly different view of contemporary Chandigarh.
In celebration of the Nordic Pavilion’s fiftieth anniversary, thirty-two architects born after the year 1962 have been invited to present a model of a conceptual “house” that reflects their personal philosophy of architecture at the 2012 Venice Biennale exhibition “Light Houses: On the Nordic Common Ground”. Eleven architects from Finland and Sweden, along with ten architects from Norway will each respond to the sobering economic constraints and diminishing environmental resources that challenge architects today.
The Nordic Pavilion was designed by the Pritzker Prize laureate Sverre Fehn and is described as a “distilled, elegant” version of a Nordic “house”, as it evokes sensations of light, material, structure, space, nature and atmosphere. It embodies what might be called a metaphysical “house of the North”, one of specific primary architectural images, elements and details. The Nordic Pavilion is a physical and metaphorical “common ground” for Finland, Sweden and Norway.
The works have been commissioned specifically for the Venice venue from Nordic architects new and established, urban and rural, less-renowned and widely celebrated. The exhibits are displayed as installations, forming a “chorus” of contemporary Nordic architecture in polyphonic dialogue with Fehn’s iconic Pavilion. The exhibits are mounted on pedestals designed by Professor Juhani Pallasmaa, Fehn’s colleague and personal friend.
Light Houses: On the Nordic Common Ground, by Designer, for 13th International Architecture Exhibition, Venice Biennale
For the ﬁrst time in its history, Perrier-Jouet is launching a limited edition of its iconic Belle Epoque Champagne Bottle, which has been re-interpreted by the highly talented Japanese ﬂral artist Makoto Azuma.
At the start of the 20th century, master glassmaker Emile Gallé sketched a spray of white Japanese anemones for the House of Perrier-Jouët. Gracefully captured in all their freshness and vitality, depicting the elegant, floral and diamond-cut style of Perrier-Jouët, the anemones became the emblem of the cuvée Belle Epoque.
Today, in an echo of that original design, Perrier-Jouët has entrusted Japanese artist Makoto Azuma with creating a composition of great delicacy, an ethereal arabesque sprinkled with the anemones that, in Iapan, symbolise truth and sincerity.
Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Limited Edition and Florale by Makoto Azuma, Photography © Shiinoki Shunsuke
Another thing that captures the true essence of Belle Opaque are artificial trees. Reflecting charm and vitality for years to come, they are the perfect decors for display.
One of the world’s most prestigious schools of art has defined a new teaching paradigm by making architecture and industrial design more interdisciplinary, more interconnected. ECAL chez Le Corbusier (ECAL at Le Corbusier’s place) is a magnificent tribute to the great architect on the 125th anniversary of his birth. It is also, and above all, an encounter between a master and some pupils: between Le Corbusier and the students of ECAL (University of Art and Design Lausanne). To imagine, then to produce objects for the Villa “Le Lac” was the project conceived by Elric Petit, head of the bachelor’s degree programme in industrial design at ECAL, and Chris Kabel, professor at ECAL. The project soon outgrew the framework of a classic teaching activity: the potential offered by the site, the inventiveness awakened by this assignment and the quality of the executions naturally led to the idea of an on-site exhibition.
ECAL: Chez Le Corbusier, Villa Le Lac, Switzerland, July 2 – August 29
An exhibition celebrating the Italian architect and designer Massimo Vignelli. On display is a selection of works designed by Massimo and Lella Vignelli over the course of an outstanding career of almost fifty years.
The pieces on display, which are on loan from the Vignelli Center for Design Studies at Rochester Institute of Technology – as well as other examples of the designers’ graphic, furniture, interior and architectural design, which are featured in a slide show in the gallery – are at once disciplined and playful. A trio of colored glass and silver carafes, produced in the late 1950s by the Italian glassmaker Venini and the French silversmith Christofle, strike a perfect balance between formal rigor and sensuality. (Their handles’ U-shaped profile was later translated into plastic for the cups and mugs of the Vignellis’ famous stacking tableware for Heller, which is also on view.) Simple, elegant flatware and glassware (for Sasaki and for an Italian hotel chain) are shown alongside an array of sleek but practical watches for the Swiss company Junod. If the show has a shortcoming apart from its size – what’s there makes you want to see more – it’s that it doesn’t tell the stories behind the products, like the 1962 table lamp for Arteluce that was designed to be shipped flat and assembled at home, or the delicately colored Murano glass barware by Venini that was originally designed for the Vignellis’ wedding.
The Dutchman Gerrit Rietveld (1888 – 1964) was one of the most important designers and architects of the 20th century. He was trained as a carpenter and was associated early on with the De Stijl movement and its central figures, Theo van Doesburg and Piet Mondrian. Beginning in 1918, his work reflects the artistic ideals of this group. Rietveld transformed objects and buildings into abstract compositions of lines and planes, mainly in black, white, grey and the primary colours yellow, red and blue. However, he initially developed his legendary Red-Blue Chair in 1918 without the striking colour scheme from which its name is derived – the coloured version dates from the year 1923. Rietveld’s first architectural project, the now legendary Rietveld-Schröder House, followed in 1924. In search of ways to further develop his radical aesthetic ideas, Rietveld soon distanced himself from the aesthetics of De Stijl. Throughout the 1930s, he pursued experimental work, especially with innovative materials such as plywood and aluminium. One example of the unusual furnishings created out of these materials is the Zig-Zag Chair (c. 1932). After 1945, Rietveld was primarily active as an architect, designing prestigious buildings such as the Dutch Pavilion on the premises of the Venice Biennale. By the time of the major De Stijl retrospective at the New York Museum of Modern Art in 1952/53, Rietveld had attained international recognition as a pioneer of modern design. This Vitra Design Museum exhibition is the first major retrospective on Gerrit Rietveld to be presented to the German-speaking public since 1996. Comprising around 320 objects – including furniture, models, paintings, photographs, films and approximately 100 original drawings and plans – it offers a comprehensive overview of the Dutch designer’s work. In addition, it incorporates comparative works by contemporaries such as Theo van Doesburg, Bart van der Leck, Le Corbusier and Marcel Breuer, thus shedding light on the mutual exchange of ideas and Rietveld’s place in the context of other modernist currents.
Viewed in the light of this new retrospective, many facets of Gerrit Rietveld’s work prove to be astonishingly relevant today. For example, his urban plans appear to have much more in common with current developments than many radical utopian concepts put forth by other modernist architects, since Rietveld’s were based on social aspects rather than dogmatic principles. And with a series of furniture for self-assembly in the 1930s and ’40s, Rietveld anticipated even today’s do-it-yourself trend and the concept of “open design”.
Gerrit Rietveld: The Revolution of Space, May 17 – September 16, at Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany
The first special project by White Cube in Brazil, Facts and Systems (Fatos e Sistemas) is an exhibition of two new series of works. In one room, the artist will present dramatic body forms made from stacked, mild steel blocks that punctuate and articulate the gallery. In another room, he will present a group of linear sculptures made from 6mm steel road that continue his investigation into architectural space.