A Winter’s Worth of Reading



Hand-in-Hand: Ceramics, Mosaics, Tapestries, and Woodcarvings by the California Mid-Century Designers Evelyn and Jerome Ackerman By Dan Chavkin and Lisa Thackaberry, Pointed Leaf Press, 240 pages, $55

HAND-IN HAND is the first monograph about the Cal- ifornia mid-century design team of Evelyn and Jerome Ackerman. In his preface designer Jonathan Adler describes the couple’s work as the “perfect marriage of gorgeous design, impeccable craftsmanship, emotional sincerity, and unfiltered childlike wonder.”

Jerome (Jerry) Ackerman met his future wife in the winter of 1948 in his hometown of Detroit. On the advice of a friend, the twenty-eight-year-old World War II vet decided to pay a visit to the girl he’d met once and walked into the interior design studio where she worked, armed with only his charm and two candy bars in his pocket. They were married that fall. As children of the Great Depression they knew the value of frugality, self-reliance, and education; newlyweds, they both earned degrees in the arts from Wayne State University with GI supplements, and they built the furniture and decor for their first apartment.

In 1952 they moved to Los Angeles seeking new opportunities and sunshine. They believed in the intersection of art, design, and mass production espoused by the Bauhaus movement, and “hand-in-hand” mastered ceramics, mosaics, textiles, woodcarving, and metalwork. Their inventive and whimsical style set them apart, as did their commitment to the idea that great design should be affordable and accessible. Though their oeuvre is now seen as the epitome of California mid-century modernism, when Jerry (who retired four years ago) was asked which project gave him the most pride in his long career, he responded, “marrying my wife.” Hand-In-Hand features many never-before-seen preparatory drawings and color guides, and tells the heartwarming story of a partnership in design and life.

Midcentury Houses Today By Jeffrey Matz, Lorenzo Ottaviani, and Cristina A. Ross, Photography by Michael Biondo, Monacelli Press, 240 pages, $65

A GRAPHIC DESIGNER, two architects, and a photographer present an in-depth look at sixteen of the more than one hundred modern houses built by the so-called Harvard Five in New Canaan, Connecticut, between 1950 and 1978. A suburb just forty-five miles from Grand Central—and more New England than New York—New Canaan became an affordable reprieve in the 1940s and 1950s for executives working in the city. There—following the teachings of their Harvard professor, Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius— John Johansen, Marcel Breuer, Landis Gores, Philip Johnson, and Eliot Noyes built houses for themselves and their clients that expressed the simplicity, openness, sensitivity to site and nature, and use of natural materials that formed the core principles of modern- ism as the ideal of twentieth-century domesticity.

Every year design enthusiasts make the pilgrim- age to this longstanding shrine of mid-century architecture, where ninety-one of the 118 modernist houses originally built still survive. This book looks at sixteen of them in detail to study the range of approaches that have led to their preservation and adaption to contemporary life; each house has a chapter of its own, with floor plans, archival shots of initial construction, and new photography of additions made by significant contemporary architects, such as Toshiko Mori, Roger Ferris, and Joeb Moore. Included, too, is a comprehensive timeline of the most famous projects, not only by the Harvard Five but also by Victor Christ-Janer, Edward Durell Stone, and Alan Goldberg. The book took five years to complete, with commentary from the architects and builders, the original owners and current occupants, that reveals how these houses are enjoyed and lived in today, and how the modernist residence is more than a philosophy of design and construction, but also a philosophy of living.

Sottsass By Philippe Thome? Phaidon, 500 pages, $150

ETTORE SOTTSASS is best known as the founder of the 1980s Italian design collective Memphis, which produced colorful, symbolic, and playful office equip- ment, furniture, glass, lighting, and jewelry. He was also a non-conformist architect and writer as well as an avid photographer who shot portraits of Hemingway, Picasso, Ernst, and Chet Baker. Divided chronologically, with multicolored tabs separating sections, this massive and beautiful volume traces Sottsass’s prolific career and explores his methodology. The reader literally unfolds eight hundred illustrations that have been cleverly tucked inside, including drawings and sketches and never-before-published photographs from the Sottsass archive. In addition, there are five short essays by experts that explore Sottsass’s work in architecture, graphic design, photography, industrial design, and collector’s editions.

A prisoner of war during World War II, Sottsass set out to create design that would help people become aware of their existence, the spaces they live in, and their own presence in them. He cared little about functionality and was more intent on creating design with meaning and addressing the hopes and dreams of his generation. The author reserves three full pages for images of one of Sottsass’s most famous pieces, the bright red plastic Valentine portable typewriter for Olivetti that hit stores on February 14, 1968. Sottsass deemed it the “anti-machine machine,” meaning that it functioned as a typewriter but also had a human quality lacking in most office equipment at the time. “Red is the color of the Communist flag, the color that makes a surgeon move faster and the color of passion,” he proclaimed. This book is itself a piece of art, with a Tiffany-blue bifold cover and a dapper black-and-white striped lining worthy of Sottsass.

Monsieur Dior: Once Upon A Time By Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni, Pointed Leaf Press, 252 pages, $70

MONSIEUR DIOR: ONCE UPON A TIME by the Paris-based fashion journalist Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni, offers an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the ten years during which Christian Dior ran his esteemed house. The book begins with his February 1947 show that took the fashion world by storm with his “New Look.” At a time when women were craving beauty and glamour following the war. Dior’s New Look brought femininity back to fashion with a bold use of fabric, silhouetted lines, and shorter hemlines. In the short time that Dior ran his house he expanded his empire to include perfumes, jewelry, and hosiery while opening boutiques all over the world. Fraser-Cavassoni inter- views dozens of people who knew Dior personally, including fellow designer Pierre Cardin, who worked in the Dior ateliers at the time of the 1947 show, as well as Lauren Bacall just months before her death. “When Dior made the change of how women should look, you couldn’t ignore it,” Bacall said, “because his New Look made everything else look old-fashioned.” Marlene Dietrich’s daughter recounts how her mother famously proclaimed in a telegram to Alfred Hitchcock regarding her role in his upcoming Stage Fright, “no Dior, and no Dietrich.”

There have been numerous scholarly books written about the genius of Dior, but Monsieur Dior: Once Upon A Time is a refreshing departure, humanizing this design icon, and told in the words of his friends, favorite models, and employees. Photography by legends such as Cecil Beaton, Henri Cartier-Bres- son, Lord Snowdon, and Willy Maywald, as well as never-before-seen materials from the Dior Archives, contribute to this delightful look into the House of Dior’s brilliant founder.

The Best of Flair Edited by Fleur Cowles, Foreword by Dominick Dunne, Rizzoli, $125

FLEUR COWLES was an American expatriate painter, philanthropist, and founding editor of the short-lived Flair, launched in 1950, one of the most outrageously beautiful and inventive magazines ever created. The Best of Flair is packaged in an elegant scarlet box that match- es the color of the inaugural issue’s die-cut cover with its single golden wing. Based on a brooch Cowles had discovered in a Paris flea market, the design was intended to symbolize “flight, excitement, and beauty” and embody the content to be found in each issue of the magazine. Cowles handwrote every editor’s letter in gold ink, painstakingly selected the best images, used only the finest papers, and of course ensured that each cover was absolute perfection with a spectacular cutout. “I decided on a two-part cover with a hole,” she wrote, “because I like the mystery of not being able to know what’s inside. Of course, people started calling it ‘Fleur’s hole in the head.’” The eleven issues Cowles produced were lauded for their fashion coverage, literature, art, travel, theater, and humor. Flair was not just a magazine but an art form, with features about and interviews with some of the world’s most legendary artists and celebrities—Lucian Freud, Jean Cocteau, Tallulah Bankhead, Salvador Dali?, Simone de Beauvoir, Walker Evans, James Michener, Ogden Nash, Gypsy Rose Lee, Clare Boothe Luce, George Bernard Shaw, Margaret Mead, and Tennessee Williams, among others. Now more than fifty years after the magazine ceased publication, this ingenious compilation by Rizzoli includes multiple gatefolds incorporating die-cuts, pop-ups, booklets, and accordion folder leaflets.

Frank Lloyd Wright: The Rooms: Interiors and Decorative Arts By Margo Stipe, Photography by Alan Weintraub, Foreword by David Hanks, Rizzoli, 336 pages, $75

THE EVOCATIVE INTERIOR SPACES created by Frank Lloyd Wright, starting with his own Oak Park home and studio built in 1890 and concluding with his last additions to Taliesin III, are explored in this lavishly illustrated book. The author describes Wright as an idealistic iconoclast who believed in creating democratic architecture and thought individuals deserved spaces that would encourage them to develop their full potential. Thus, he broke up boxlike Victorian rooms to create free- flowing interior spaces. A proponent of the Gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art) in architecture, he also designed the furniture for his houses—tables, bookcases, easy chairs, sofas, cabinets, rugs, murals, and stained glass. One chapter is dedicated to Wright’s great- est inspiration and muse, nature. “He believed nature was the materialization of spirit,” Stipe writes, and designed “structures that belonged to the site, that did not destroy the life of the site, but improved on it.” Wright’s career changed and evolved with each decade, and he was still building actively when he died at ninety in 1959. This volume provides a clear view of his organic blend of architecture and ornament and highlights a number of his masterpieces—from the Prairie period to the 1950s—including the Frederick C. Rob- ie House, the Susan Lawrence Dana House, and, of course, Fallingwater, designed for Edgar and Liliane Kaufmann.

Beautiful Users: Designing for People Edited and designed by Ellen Lupton, Princeton Architectural Press, 144 pages, $21.95

THE COOPER HEWITT, Smithsonian Design Museum reopens this month after a three-year renovation (see p. 78). One of the inaugural exhibitions is Beautiful Users, curated by Ellen Lupton, the first in a series of shows to be held in the new Design Process Galleries and in- tended to showcase the people and methods that define design as an essential human activity. This accompanying book explores the ethos of “designing for people” a phrase coined by Henry Dreyfuss, the father of industrial design, after World War II. The book opens with a brief history of Dreyfuss’s telephone designs, his user-centered approach that focused on studying behavior to develop successful products.

Designs featured range from Yves Behar’s pill dispenser to the Nest Learning Thermostat, and include Smart Design’s Good Grips for OXO, 3-D-printed prosthetic Robohands, and Eva Zeisel’s flat- ware, to name a few. But this is more than a companion guide for the exhibition. It is a valuable resource that explores a range of design practices, from user research to hacking, and also contains a critical glossary of terms.

Outdoor Sculpture


Four new sculptures by the Vermont sculptor Richard Erdman were recently installed by the landscape architect Enzo Enea at his Tree Museum in Zurich. Erdman’s works join a group of sculptures by other contemporary artists that are permanently installed amidst the more than two thousand trees collected by Enea in the bucolic, eighteen-acre site near Lake Zurich.

A copse of lush green frames Erdman’s Brazilian blue granite Sentinel, which spills out and upward from its pedestal, its fluid energy providing a perfect complement to the scene. Rising up from the museum’s pond is Spira, two-and-a-half tons of Italian Bardiglio marble that form the largest Erdman sculpture ever placed on water (see above). Elsewhere on the grounds, Fiora in Italian Siena travertine opens its petals to the air, while Volante in Italian Bardiglio marble occupies a more intimate space on the museum grounds, its asymmetrical arcs evoking a dolphin at play or curled asleep.

“Passion creates wishes out of dreams and wishes motivate us to strive to make those dreams reality,” says Enea. Together Erdman’s sculptures and Enea’s Tree Museum form a perfect blending of landscape, design, and dreams. After a brief winter closure, the Tree Museum with Erdman’s sculptures reopens in February. enea.ch

The Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center is on the move after spending a quarter century at the state fairgrounds in Oklahoma City. The architectural firm of Elliott and Associates has been tapped to design a new campus on four-and-a-half acres in Automobile Alley just north of OKC’s downtown. Even before that, however, Oklahoma Contemporary is making a colorful statement in its new neighbor- hood with artist, weaver, and “rope wrangler” Orly Genger’s latest massive, brightly hued sculpture, Terra, unveiled this past fall and on view through October 2015.

Incorporating 1.4 million feet of recycled lobster-fishing rope (her preferred medium) and 350 gallons of deep orange paint, Genger’s neat stacks of crocheted ropes snake across the ground, curving around trees, and creating undulating hills in the flat park. The work encourages visitors to experience the park differently as they move through and around the sculpture. “When visiting Oklahoma I was tak- en by the vastness of the open landscape and envisioned a line that would travel in continual motion winding through the patch of land,” Genger says. She goes on to explain that the term “red dirt” inspired her color choice, which, she says, “relates both to the clay-like na- ture of the earth, and to the bricks with which we build walls.” Indeed an appropriate motif to presage the creation of the new arts center. oklahomacontemporary.org

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, Florida, is home to some three thousand horticultural species—palms, cycads, tropical fruits, and many other rare and unusual plants and trees. In recent years the eighty-three-acre garden has also hosted major outdoor exhibitions of both art and design—works that play off the extraordinary array of plants and trees.

This year, designer Satyendra Pakhalé was named for the job; a self-proclaimed “cultural nomad” who was born and educated in India, studied in Switzerland, and then moved to Holland to work and teach, Pakhalé is represented by Gabrielle Ammann in Cologne, Germany, and was selected for this project by the New York–based design gallerist Cristina Grajales.

Pakhalé says that he was particularly inspired by the “vividly colorful” butterflies he saw in the garden’s Wings of the Tropics exhibition. Thus, he reconfigured his molded thermoplastic Fish Chair, first produced by Cappellini in 2005, in a new vivid color that Pakhalé terms “viola.” He regards the Fish Chair as both seat and sculpture and says that it “is an object that suggests something instead of representing anything.” Though the limited edition of this chair will total ninety-nine, some forty of them will dot the Fairchild grounds through May. fairchildgarden.org

Now Open, in N.Y.C. and L.A.



Gabriel Scott, the Montreal design team of brothers-in-law Gabriel Kakon and Scott Richler, has launched its first showroom, opening its doors on the first floor of the historic Brewster Carriage House at 372 Broome Street in Manhattan (a vintage carriage on the showroom floor recalls the building’s early role as home to one of the most famous coach makers of the day). The high ceilings, enormous windows, and original maple floor make the 1,200-square-foot space perfect for displaying the pair’s sculptural furniture and lighting devices, primarily in steel and glass and available in a limited palette of finishes that gives the collection an appealingly coherent aesthetic.

Both trained architects (and with additional backgrounds in industrial design and fashion), Kakon and Richler started designing custom pieces for their own projects about 2004 and in 2012 began to offer their work to architects and interior designers. The range of furniture forms now more widely available through the new showroom includes a variety of tables and seating. The newest line of lighting, called Harlow, comprises geometric bursts of glass and metal in a variety of sizes. Most popular is the Welles lighting series, which can be had as single units or in multiples welded together (above). It’s really lighting as sculpture—especially since each individual unit weighs five pounds. gabriel-scott.com

Curator, editor, writer, historian, scholar, and appraiser Christopher W. Mount is wearing yet another hat these days, having opened a gallery specializing in architecture and design at the Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles. Lamenting the digital world’s infringement on what he calls the “wonderful expressive form of the design sketch or study,” his current exhibition, Looking into the Future: Automotive Design and Concepts, 1959–1973, includes thirty-nine drawings for America’s “Big Three”—General Motors, Ford and Chrysler—during a halcyon period for the American auto industry, when there was little foreign competition, regulation, or worries about oil shortages. Thorny issues of practicality often take a back seat in the drawings, which are divided between those by “advanced stylists” who created futuristic concepts, and those by more traditional stylists creating new versions of existing or new models. All are a joy to look at. Keep tuned: Mount, who deals privately in New York, hopes to open a gallery there in the near future. christopherwmountgallery.com

The new New York design gallery Chamber is aptly named. It is clean and pristine, a long and narrow space on the ground floor of the HL23 building, just where the High Line crosses West Twenty-third Street, and in many ways it resembles a cabinet of curiosities, or better, a chamber of curiosities. When Juan Garcia Mosqueda, formerly part of the Murray Moss team, set out to create Chamber, he opted for an unusual approach: a retail space that would be curated every two years or so and offer some of the most interesting, unusual, and even arcane objects—some specially made for Chamber and others either contemporary or vintage design.

The opening offerings were curated by Studio Job and range from a minimalist glass table by the Japanese designer nendo to vintage Dutch children’s toys, from rugs by the French designer Matali Crasset to works from a host of interesting makers including Maarten Baas and Aldo Bakker. “It is an ensemble,” says Chamber’s director Michael Vince Snyder, also a Moss alumnus. “This is much more of an exhibition approach.”

The building itself was designed by the Los Angeles architect Neil Denari (who is represented in the collection by a neon sculpture). The Chamber space, by Michael Meredith and Hilary Sample of MOS Architects of New York, is aimed at showing off the objects and not competing with them. And to good effect: Chamber is a hybrid, neither gallery nor showroom nor shop precisely, but rather a bit of each. A casual visitor might pop in off the High Line for a brief tour; a design connoisseur could while away a good hour there, maybe even more. chambernyc.com



Caroline Baumann takes the helm at the newly expanded Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Interview by Al Eiber

Caroline Baumann © ERIN BALANO

SWISS-BORN, CAROLINE BAUMANN graduated from Bates College in Maine and has an MFA from New York University. Before coming to the Cooper Hewitt in 2001, where she has served in many capacities, including acting director on several occasions, she had been at the Museum of Modern Art from 1995. Following the death of Bill Moggridge, she was named director of Cooper Hewitt in June 2013.

As a collector and now as a trustee of the museum, I have gained enormous respect for Baumann’s intelligence, dedication, and enthusiasm—a perfect combination to lead the newly renamed Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum to the next level. For this wide-ranging interview for MODERN Magazine she took time from her hectic schedule to discuss the plans for the future and convey the excitement surrounding the reopening of the museum on December 12—the 112th anniversary of Andrew Carnegie moving into the Fifth Avenue mansion that has housed Cooper Hewitt since 1970.

After a three-year closure, the renovated, restored, and renamed Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum reopens on December 12. Matt Flynn photo.

You’re about to re-open the museum after a three-year renovation. What are we going to be surprised to see?
Everything! You’re in for a completely new Cooper Hewitt experience. Inside and out, every aspect of the museum has been renovated and reimagined. From a physical standpoint, our home in the historic Andrew Carnegie Mansion now has an incredible 60 percent more gallery space—16,000 square feet in which to showcase items from our permanent collection as well as temporary exhibitions. We’ve also completely reinvigorated the visitor experience by incorporating a number of interactive elements. Chief among these are a breakthrough Pen device, ultra–high-resolution digital tables, and dynamic spaces that encourage engagement.

The Pen is really key to the whole experience. All Cooper Hewitt visitors will be encouraged to take one as they enter the museum, and to collect and create with it as they move through the various spaces. One of the ways they can do this is by using the Pen in conjunction with the interactive tables; they’ll be located throughout the building and will allow visitors to play designer and explore the collection like never before. This will be particularly evident in the Immersion Room, an interactive space that will provide access to hundreds of our wallcoverings. Visitors can project them onto the walls for a truly immersive effect, or create their own designs and display them in the same fashion. And then there’s our Process Lab, another new, interactive space that encourages engagement by giving visitors the opportunity to experience the design process firsthand.

The innovative Cooper Hewitt Pen will allow visitors to collect and create designs as they move through the galleries.

Designed by Local Projects, the Immersion Room is an interactive space that provides access to the Cooper Hewitt’s hundreds of wallcoverings (or visitors can design their own), which can then be projected onto the walls for an immersive effect.

What do you like best about Diller Scofidio and Renfro’s renovation?
Such a hard question to answer…DS and R contributed a great deal to the renovation, and everything they’ve done has been nothing short of amazing. From the revitalized museum entrance on East Ninetieth Street—complete with illuminated piers on the corners of Fifth Avenue and Ninetieth and Ninety-First Streets—to the new first- and second-floor gallery layouts, to the exquisite cases they designed with the Cooper Hewitt team to showcase objects from the permanent collection, to a reinvigorated shop experience, they’ve really helped us execute our vision for a completely refreshed and reimagined museum experience.

What do you see as your role as the National Design Museum?
As part of our reinvention, we actually dropped the word “National” from our name, replacing it with “Smithsonian.” Many people don’t realize that Cooper Hewitt is part of the Smithsonian Institution’s network of nineteen museums and galleries, the largest such complex in the world. By emphasizing our connection with this venerable institution, we want to extend our reach, both nationally and internationally. In fact, one of our opening exhibitions, Tools: Extending Our Reach, actually features objects from ten Smithsonian museums.

The Smithsonian was established in 1846 “for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.” Today, we’re holding true to that vision, offering a stellar permanent collection and unique temporary exhibitions. And, with our new emphasis on access, people will have an opportunity to explore our offerings like never before, fulfilling Cooper Hewitt’s mission to educate, inspire, and empower people through design. Ultimately, that’s our role, nationally and internationally: it’s helping people to grasp the omnipresence of design and the impact it has on every aspect of our lives.

Tools: Extending Our Reach is the inaugural exhibition in the new 6,000 square feet of gallery space on the third floor.

What impact do you want your exhibitions to make? And what are your inaugural exhibitions?
We have a great lineup of inaugural exhibitions, starting with Designing the New Cooper Hewitt. The nine design firms that were instrumental in transforming Cooper Hewitt into a twenty-first-century design destination are featured, and each recounts its role, process, and the challenges it faced in executing its particular contribution(s).

On the first floor, Beautiful Users focuses on user-centered design. The exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Bill Moggridge, a pioneer of human- centered design who designed the first laptop computer (the GriD Compass, which is included in the exhibition), and who was the director of Cooper Hewitt from 2010 to 2012. Also on the first floor is Maira Kalman Selects, part of an ongoing series in which the museum invites guest curators to create installations drawn from the astonishing Cooper Hewitt collection. The exhibition features pieces from Kalman’s personal collection, as well as objects from Cooper Hewitt and other Smithsonian museums, to suggest the journey of a life story, from birth through death.

Maira Kalman’s gouache painting (2014) of Gerrit Rietveld’s Zig-Zag chair, and the chair, designed c. 1934.

The second-floor galleries will showcase gems from the permanent collection, and we’ll open with exhibitions that showcase important elements of design as well as the history of the collection: Making Design; The Hewitt Sisters Collect; Passion for the Exotic: Lockwood de Forest, Frederic Church; and an installation of exceptional eighteenth- and nineteenth- century models of staircases in the new Models and Prototypes Room. Finally, the third-floor now boasts 6,000 square feet of gallery space, and it will be inaugurated by the Tools exhibition I mentioned earlier. In terms of impact, we want our exhibitions to make visitors look at the familiar in unexpected ways, to learn something new or interact with something in a way they haven’t before. Our job is to provide the context and the experience, and let the design speak for itself. That’s what’s so exciting about the new Cooper Hewitt experience. We’re asking people to engage with our collection and exhibitions in a new way, actively participating rather than passively observing. We are confident that it will make for a much more gratifying and multidimensional visit and, we hope, a more memorable one as well.

How are you going to engage the community?
New York City has a vibrant design community. To really give you an idea of the scope, a study published this past May by the Center for an Urban Future noted that, as of 2013, New York was home to 40,340 full-time designers—that’s 65 percent more designers than any other metro region in the U.S. (and a 74 percent jump since 2000). What’s more, New York leads the nation in the number of design firms—3,884—encompassing fields such as fashion, graphic, interior, industrial, and landscape design as well as architecture.

The public here also has a great appetite for design, and there’s a demand and anticipation for what we’ll be offering: unprecedented interactive and immersive technologies paired with significantly expanded presentations of our rich collection and distinctive design exhibitions.

We’re committed to providing design education to our community at large and will continue to grow our stellar educational programming in that pursuit. Two years ago we opened the Cooper Hewitt Design Center in Harlem, and since then over thirty-five thousand students, families, and educators have walked through its doors. We also have a fantastic initiative called Design in the Classroom that has helped bring design awareness to over sixty thousand underserved New York City school children.

But our educational programs aren’t just for students. We’re inspiring and educating nearly two thousand adults through over thirty annual pro- grams, public lectures, conversations, and hands- on workshops that provide access to some of the greatest minds in the design field. What’s more,all of our public programs are streamed live and archived on our YouTube channel, making them widely accessible.

We have very solid relationships here in New York, and through our ongoing outreach efforts we will continue to engage the community. We’re also opening the Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden to the public, free of charge, in yet another gesture of accessibility; we want to invite the community to experience design in all its shapes and forms, and we want the community to feel welcome.

Not being from New York, I wonder how you are going to reach the public outside of New York.
We’re already reaching communities nationwide with our Design in the Classroom program. Having had such success with it right here at home, we expanded the program’s reach to classrooms in Washington D.C., New Orleans, San Antonio, Minneapolis, and Cleveland.

We’ve also taken our exhibitions around the globe during the renovation. For example, House Proud: Nineteenth-Century Watercolor Interiors from the Thaw Collection traveled to Paris, and then we forged new territory by sharing the exhibition at the Beijing World Art Museum in China. Showcasing our offerings worldwide is an important and exciting initiative, and we’re expanding it when our doors open.

And we’ve got a strong social media presence that reaches across the country and across the globe. You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, all of which encourage sharing information. That’s a key factor for us in continuing to expand our audience beyond New York. It also ties in with our focus on interactivity, as our new museum experience encourages visitors to actively participate and share their experiences.

Visitors will be able to create their own designs in the new Process Lab, one of the interactive innovations by Diller Scofidio and Renfro.

How big is your exhibition space?
Big! 16,000 square feet, spread over three floors, including our new 6,000-square-foot third-floor gallery. All this new space means that the seven newly renovated galleries on the second floor can now be used to display objects from our permanent collection, and we’re excited to finally share them with our public.

How big is the collection? What are its strengths and weaknesses?
Our permanent collection is expansive: more than 217,000 objects spanning thirty centuries. Started by the Hewitt sisters in 1897, it was intended as a working collection, one to be carefully studied, and whose objects would serve as a “visual library” to inspire students and designers alike.

One of the greatest strengths of the Cooper Hewitt collection is that it’s user-centered. The core collection was based on the principles of participation and outreach, which fit perfectly with our redefined goals for an interactive museum experience, and we’ve continued to build on this foundation in our subsequent collecting efforts.

The collection is also tremendously rich and diverse, but what makes it unique is the range of design processes and manufacturing techniques that it exhibits across our four curatorial departments. Our focus now is on continuing to build our twentieth- and twenty-first-century collections, and providing new ways to display and discuss our evolving collection in keeping with our desire to promote greater accessibility.

Here are just a few examples of the exquisite objects that will be on view when we open: a glass vase designed by Gaetano Pesce while he worked at the French glass center, CIRVA; a 3-D printed urn designed by Michael Eden [pro- filed on p. 102]; and a late nineteenth- or early twentieth-century birdcage from Italy, modeled after the Rialto Bridge, that was donated by the Hewitt sisters.

We’re also working on expanding our collection through the addition of born-digital design objects. To that end, we recently acquired Planetary, an iPad music application. It’s an important example of interaction design and interactive data visualization and, by acquiring its source code, we’re also able to reveal the underlying design decisions made through its creation and evolution. The acquisition highlights our own evolution, and is something we will continue to build on.

The Cooper Hewitt store will be much expanded. Can you tell us more about it?
Yes, our shop will be completely redesigned and we’ll have a greater range of merchandise than ever before. From the historic to the contemporary, our shop offerings will be more reflective of Cooper Hewitt’s de- sign philosophy, mission, and collection. There’s also going to be more emphasis on products related to our exhibitions, programs, and permanent collection. Plus the shop will serve as a specialist destination for design and architecture publications. We’ll also continue to carry our exclusive “Museum Souvenir” items—souvenirs commissioned by contemporary artists and designers. With such a wide variety of high design offerings, the shop will be a great complement to the visitor experience, as well as a destination for design-savvy customers. All of this is also available in our online shop at shop.cooperhewitt.org, which has remained open during the renovation.

Twilight Zone: The Engaging and Almost Inexplicable Jonathan Muecke


Jonathan Muecke with his mock-up for the 2014 Design Miami entrance pavilion.

GIVEN THE EXCESSES OF THE CONTEMPORARY design world, Jonathan Muecke’s practice is at once spare and complex. His elegant but idiosyncratic objects reside respectfully at the edge of, if not beyond, the accustomed bandwidth of contemporary design. Although functional, they inhabit an independent realm of design thinking that holds modernist traditions at bay. In fact, Muecke’s cerebral and experimental practice seems more aligned with that of a fine artist than an industrial designer, calling to mind the conceptual practices of such twentieth-century luminaries as Yves Klein, Ellsworth Kelly, and Donald Judd.

True, most of Muecke’s objects fit into typologies such as chair, stool, or table, yet they challenge received notions of how such objects should look and function. They are fabricated variously from stainless steel, aluminum, wood, fiberglass, carbon fiber, or composite materials (a favorite), and sometimes polychromed in saturated hues of blue and green. By eliminating all unessential detail, his objects question our perceptual acumen, about spatial relationships, dynamic edge, and surface plane.

Ironically, Muecke does not view his reductive objects, which have names like Painted Shape (PS) or Coiled Stool (CS), as minimalist, but rather as “maximums.” He states, “My objects must have their own potential to be other things—relational to the environment and to other objects, away and outside of me.

Muecke does not view his reductive objects as minimalist, but as “maximums.” Painted Shape (PS), seen here, was created in 2013 is an edition of twenty-four plus two artist’s proofs.

He defines his work as “Open Objects,” meaning they are to be perceived as new or unknown even when seen repeatedly. “There should be a way to let the unknown remain in the object,” he explains. “You recognize this in objects, or in moments like standing on the edge of the shore and looking into the sea. It’s about not knowing what you are looking at. It’s that, and also knowing what you are looking at. You are knowledgeable and ignorant at the same time.” For example, Low Wooden Shape (LWS) is a long bench-like form with ten legs and a center element resembling the keel of a sailboat. Made from white oak, LWS is potentially multifunctional— wide enough to be a bench in an art museum, a bed, or a place to stack books. Or a sculpture.

Particularly intriguing is Mezzanine. An oval-shaped table fabricated from aluminum, its five regularly spaced legs are not on any type of axis. Moreover, the pattern within the table’s edge shifts five times, but not in correspondence with the legs. Why Mezzanine? “A mezzanine is a free architectural space; it floats in between,” Muecke says. “Above the ceiling is a floor and below the floor is a ceiling.”

Muecke’s recently completed Blue Cabinet (BC), a high-walled isosceles triangle painted a near Yves Klein blue, is equally confounding. Each side slides open on a track. However BC has no top, floor, or internal shelving and, when closed, suggests a 1970s minimalist sculpture more than a storage container. “A cabinet defines two separate things—interior and exterior. With BC I want to push the notions, the limits of what a cabinet needs to be or have,” he says.

Muecke recently completed Blue Cabinet (BC), each side of which slides open, though the piece doesn’t really function as a cabinet at all.

Muecke clarifies that his practice is not “about design to make something.” Rather, his objects suggest a range of functions. “I am interested in making something into something else—the in between spaces,” he says. “I want them free of fixed relation- ships with regard to color, size, material, or texture, or with the things around them.” Significantly he wants all elements emphasized equally. “I am successful when these traits become equalized and you can’t distinguish between them. When the shape is the color, or the scale is the material.”

This singular aesthetic informs his labor-intensive process, self-described as a field of electrons moving around all at the same time. “Everything is in play all at once. You are thinking through all options and possibilities simultaneously—color, shape, typology, texture, scale, materials. Where does this ‘belong’ is a false question; rather, I want to make an object that can be everywhere.”

Increasingly, Muecke’s objects are garnering acclaim. His work has been collected by the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Recently he was tapped by Design Miami to create the fair’s 2014 entrance pavilion, a project usually awarded to an architectural office.

Although scale has long been critical to Muecke’s practice, the Design Miami project has allowed him to scale up for the first time. “It has always been my ambition to work at this scale, so this project has been a welcome challenge,” he says. Defining the project as neither big nor small, Muecke channels a statement by sculptor Tony Smith: “To be in between is the right scale.”

The project comprises two curved, rolled steel- plate walls that form a circle forty-five feet in diameter, with space between them to form openings for entry. At ten feet high and sixty-one feet long, the exterior of each wall is painted with equal sections of blue and yellow, while the interior of one wall is red and the other green. The steel edges of the openings will be honed extremely thin. “There will be no way to tell how thick the wall is by looking at the edge,” Muecke explains. “The project will take away architecture’s third-dimension. It will eliminate any fixed notion of architecture.” His goal, again, has been to hold in balance—to equalize—material, color, and scale.

Among the works seen in this view of Muecke’s old studio are Field, 2010, in carbon fiber and epoxy (leaning against the wall); and stacks of Woven Chair (WC) prototypes, also of 2010 in carbon fiber and epoxy. Muecke wouldn’t reveal what’s under the foil. Travis Roozée photo.

At thirty-one, Muecke is tall, lean, and understated, without superfluous detail in either his manner or dress. His speech is restrained but alert, and he is exceedingly articulate. That the listener does not always follow his thinking—whether about his unorthodox forms, composite materials, or strenuous process—seems not to annoy him. Rather, he is patient enough to retrace his complex ideas, drawing on a tablet for clarification.
Muecke, who was born in Cody, Wyoming, resides in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where he maintains a small storefront studio for conceptualizing projects and meetings. He graduated in 2006 with a degree in architecture from Iowa State University in Ames. In 2007 he worked for a year for Herzog and de Meuron in Basel, Switzerland. Why didn’t he stay when offered the opportunity? “The experience was so good, I thought I should carry it on to something else,” he answers. In 2010 he graduated from the Cranbrook Academy of Art with an MFA in design and moved to the Twin Cities. He is a member of Fourth Street Guild Furniture Makers in Minneapolis, where he has a dedicated workspace to test materials and transmute his ideas into full-scale prototypes or fully realized objects.

The artist at work on his Coiled Stool (CS), 2013, and the finished stool, made out of carbon fiber, Kevlar, and epoxy

In the end, Muecke’s Open Objects suggest the reification of Japanese haiku in their juxtaposition of elements, their spare presentation, and their deep knowledge of form and perception. To contemplate one of Muecke’s objects is to comprehend the act of seeing. Perhaps most revealing, Muecke mentions a 1963 declaration by composer and conceptual artist George Brecht titled “Exercise”:

Determine the limits of an object or event.
Determine the limits more precisely.
Repeat, until further precision is impossible.

[Photos courtesy of Design Miami and Volume Gallery]

All Things (Eileen) Gray


Eileen Gray is finally getting her due. The Irish-born architect and designer has enjoyed a certain amount of fame, not least because of the sale of her Dragon chair at the Yves Saint Laurent-Pierre Bergé sale in 2009. But the enormous range of her talents has long been obscured, in large part because of the jealousy of her “friend” the Swiss architect Le Corbusier. The tale of his efforts to deface and erase Gray’s reputation is the subject of The Price of Desire, a feature length film to be released early next year. Starring Orla Brady as Gray, Swiss actor Vincent Perez as Le Corbusier, and Francesco Scianna (seen with Orla Brady in the still above) and Alanis Morissette as Gray’s lovers the Romanian architect Jean Badovici and French chanteuse Marisa Damia, the movie explores the tale of insidious chauvinism experienced by this remarkable bisexual Irish artist, architect, and designer.

But, says the film’s director Mary McGuckian, there is now “more than a movie, more of a movement” to reassert Gray’s primacy as one of the most forceful and influential inspirations in modern architecture and design. A pre-release screening of Marco Orsini’s revisionary documentary Gray Matters opened last October’s Architecture and Design Film Festival in New York (it will be broadcast in France in December and released internationally in early 2015); and in January Eileen Gray: Her Work and Her World by Gray scholar Jennifer Goff will be published by the Irish Academic Press. In May 2015 Gray’s E.1027 villa in southern France will finally open to the public, and the following year will see a major exhibition of Gray’s work organized by the Centre Pompidou and the Bard Graduate Center in New York. Add the soundtrack from The Price of Desire featuring Morissette singing Damia’s standard “On Danse à La Villette” and Julian Lennon’s photographs of the film in production, and it seems safe to say Gray will never disappear again.

Tiny Triumph

The Charles Moore Foundation transforms a nine-foot cube into a sanctuary for visiting architects, artists, designers, and scholars

By Kevin Keim

The split-tread staircase, which leads to the sleeping loft, also shelters a little kitchen, with appliances concealed in the cabinets. A Murphy table flips down to make a kitchen table and exposes little nooks for glassware. © Charles Moore foundation

We lost architect Charles Moore on the morning his Chevrolet Suburban was being packed for a road trip from Austin, Texas, to Sea Ranch, California, where he was planning to build a studio among a grove of redwoods, a beautiful spot he loved, and where all of his collaborators could come to work with him. That he died so suddenly on the very day of one of his transcontinental relocations was at once horrendously sad but remarkable in its own way, as though all his previous relocations, choreographed in rough ten-year intervals (from Monterey to Princeton to Berkeley to New Haven to Los Angeles and to Austin) would conclude on that December morning in 1993. Moore left behind an enormous legacy: legions of students, many fine books that remain in print, ideas that led a whole generation of architects in new directions, and, of course, many buildings that endure.

One of them is the Moore/Andersson Compound in Austin, a “loose confederation” of two houses and two studios that he designed and shared with his architectural partner at the time, Arthur Andersson, who still practices in Austin. When many of Moore’s colleagues and family gathered at the Moore/Andersson Compound after his death to discuss how a foundation might be established to honor such an extraordinary person (who eschewed any attempts at aggrandizement), the overarching conviction was that any effort to preserve the compound must be first and foremost an effort that would keep the place “alive”—about today and tomorrow, open to ideas and points of view. It should never be a place where all the oxygen is removed for the sake of historic preservation, and most of all, never become a shrine where fealty is expected.

Closing the Murphy table creates a sitting area, with chairs by Cranbrook Academy of Art class­­mates Harry Bertoia and Charles Eames. The Victorian reading chair,
c. 1850, with a book platform that swivels around the armrests, belonged to the late architectural historian and critic Colin Rowe. On the wall hangs Diagonal Accession by Herbert Bayer, 1971.

With all in agreement that “vitality” and “relevance” would be key principles, the Charles Moore Foundation became a reality in 1997. Its board and, as its director, I accepted the responsibility of caring for the entire property, library, and collections. However, this all came with a mortgage debt of nearly $400,000 and imminent monthly payments (drawn from our woefully meager cash reserve) that practically had the sheriff waiting at the end of the driveway, ready to attach unpleasant papers to our door. Happily, in five years we managed to retire the debt, thanks to philanthropists and well-attended fundraisers. Today the foundation continues to care for the architecture and landscape, and, in addition to publishing the Placenotes travel guides and holding conferences and lectures, it also provides residencies for architects, designers, scholars, artists, and curators visiting Austin.

Sited on a sloping wooded acre, the compound calls to mind sheltering Mission courtyards of the Hispanic past as well as modest constructions of middle European settlers of the Texas Hill country, all tied together within a board-and-batten husk, under a meandering galvanized roof. The Moore House is awash with a rococo riot of color and light, pattern, ornament, folk art, and toys. The Andersson House is all white, sharper and crisper, with one major living space dominated by a Roman-scaled rendition of a Francesco Borromini window surround. One studio was the architecture office, the other a drafting room and model shop.

This view show how the “ribbon” folds around the space, providing shelves and railings. The artworks include Bayer’s Triangulation With Hidden Square and Chromatic Gate on Silver, both 1970, as well as folk art from the Margie Shackelford-Alex Caragonne Collection.

Off in one corner of the compound there was also a tiny room with its own entrance that Anders­son designed as a kind of studiolo for painting (he is a master watercolorist). Roughly nine by nine by nine feet, it came to be known as the “Cube Room.” The foundation had little use for such a tiny studio, and even though we allowed guests to occupy the room (it had narrow built-in day beds) even a one-night stay was spatially and psychologically tight. After the architect Coleman Coker once gamely occupied it for a three-month stretch, we began to wonder how it might be made more comfortable, say for a modern-day architectural monk who fondly recalled the Le Corbusian sections of the Convent de La Tourette. Could the Cube Room find new life with a little bit of architectural attention?

For two years, Adam Word Gates, a recent graduate of the University of Texas School of Architecture, and I carefully considered the problem, as any changes made to the physical premises are undertaken with great care so as not to upstage or spoil the intentions of the original. We often joked about the former mayor of New York City who, while inhabiting a many-floored Upper East Side mansion, felt members of his electorate could live in microunits of less than four hundred square feet. Since our project would inflate the existing 81-square-foot Cube Room (and its own little private bath) into a whopping 220 square feet (including a shower and loo and sink), we gave our ambitious project the subtitle “Mike Bloomberg, eat your heart out.” We understood our challenge was how to make an impossibly small space seem big, even claim something approaching grandeur.

We favor the opinion that strong design arises from limitations, real or imagined. Our limitation was not to expand the building’s footprint. Even adding a little bay—what Moore would have called a “saddlebag”—was not possible, as Moore and Andersson had built the compound right up to the site’s deed restriction setback, which the neighborhood is still in favor of obeying. That left us with the thought of building up, but that strategy was limited by another rule we set for ourselves—not to rise above the existing ridge beam. (We also faced the limitation of a tiny budget, which required us to build all of it with our own hands.) The only answer was to perform some “architectural surgery” and reclaim a corner of oddly shaped attic space that was formerly accessible only by a ladder and trapdoor.

The sleeping loft has a twin bed that can be expanded to a full size. The headboard supports a desk by Bertoia, while the footboard contains a Mexican ceramic devil figure and a television.

Since the only place in the attic where one could stand up properly ran under the ridge beam, we knew this narrow slice of space would need to act as the “corridor.” But that didn’t leave any room for a bed. Luckily, an existing gable window on the far side of the compound provided the answer. By duplicating its dimensions and proportions almost exactly, we were able to insert a new window in the attic and open up a nook just big enough for a bed. The window (as long as the room is wide), performs a kind of sleight-of-hand, deflecting attention away from just how minuscule the room is, even extending the space, at least in our imagination, into the canopy of the post oak just outside, whose leaves filter the light that spills back inside. Little triangular panes swing open to admit fresh air and birdsong.

That left the significant problem of how to get up to the sleeping loft. A ladder was out of the question. So was a fire pole. The answer came in the form of a kaidan-dansu, a type of Japanese tansu—cabinets-cum-staircase. Still with the space as tight as an Antwerp belfry, we had to divide each of the treads into two, one apiece for the right and left foot, as Carlo Scarpa had done in many of his buildings and gardens. Instead of safeguarding precious family heirlooms, this tansu hides the microwave, coffee maker, refrigerator, corkscrew, and garbage disposal. A Murphy table (preserved from the earlier design) flips open for dining or study, resting on a free-standing pedestal that can be tucked away when not in use. Inside are coffee cups and drinking glasses. A coat closet, which conceals the ventilation chase, lets guests hang up jackets in elevation, not side by side.

The desk chair is by Arne Jacobsen. Bayer’s Image with Two Gray Squares dates from 1959.

When guests ascend the stairs, they discover the tiny, light-filled chamber, hidden away, we like to think, from the cares of the world. It’s all layered three dimensionally, locked together in structural cooperation. The bed’s headboard supports a desk, while the desk provides lateral bracing for the headboard. (The bed’s footboard conceals a television.) The desk also doubles as the loft’s railing. Guests can sit and work and let their bare feet dangle over the edge. Then the desk splits into two “ribbons” of equal width. Each folds and plunges into the space below, finding its way around light fixtures and windows while also creating bookshelves. Once the ribbons reach the staircase on the opposite side of the room, they each fold again to become the railings, so that like a Möbius strip, one is led back to where it all began. The overall feeling is of a ribbon on the inside of a gift-wrapped box, not the outside.

What the gift box contains is folk art contributed from the collection of Margie Shackelford and her late husband, Alex Caragonne, who together spent decades amassing one of the most superb collections this side of the Rio Grande. The brightly painted ceramics, wild in form—Conquistadors loading slaves into the galley of a ship with a dragon’s head for a prow, for instance—contrast with my own collection of equally vibrant, but precise geometric compositions of the Bauhaus master Herbert Bayer. These “allies of inhabitation” keep company with a whole new generation of foundation residents who come here to work, study, and enjoy the place Charles Moore initiated.

Kevin Keim is the director of the Charles Moore Foundation. He is a designer and author and the founder of the publication Placenotes.

Converging on Miami: A Short Week with a Long Afterlife…

Courtesy of Design Miami: Antonella Villanova

Housed in a vast and highly architectonic tent with an adjoining open-air pavilion designed by Jonathan Muecke (see p. 54 in print), Design Miami is just across a parking lot from the Miami Beach Convention Center and the Art Basel art fair. It opens on a Tuesday (this year, December 2) and by the following Sunday, the collectors are heading home and the dealers are packing their unclaimed wares. Yet there is an afterlife, and in many cases, a long one. Design Miami itself is larger than ever this year and features new dealers (among them Miami’s own Gallery Diet and Casati Gallery from Chicago) and, in its programming, a long and learned look at the show’s first ten years. Some of the initial innovations from new director Rodman Primack will be apparent, including the new Design Visionary award, which is being bestowed on designer and collector Peter Marino. The show itself is remarkable, of course, a mecca for collectors and connoisseurs and lovers of design, but almost as important are the commissions that then go on to longer lives and the projects that are launched during this short week.

Inside the tent that houses Design Miami are the annual installations from Perrier-Jouët (which also flows freely as the official imbibement of the fair) and Swarovski. In its third year of supporting the work of young designers, Perrier-Jouët will unveil a work entitled Ephemera (that was, at press time, still super-secret) by the Austrian design team of Katharina Mischer and Thomas Traxler and which launches a yearlong artistic residency for the duo underwritten by Perrier-Jouët.

Swarovski’s Design Miami commissions over the past eleven years have often carried potent and topical messages that speak to the human condition or the state of the environment. This year’s work—which will debut in Miami and then travel to other venues around the world—is no exception. It is a collaboration between the Chicago architect Jeanne Gang, who is also a MacArthur Fellow, and the photographer and filmmaker James Balog. Using “frozen” Swarovski crystals and glacier-like forms, their installation focuses attention on the critical issue of the melting polar ice cap by imparting the idea of thinning ice in a space for both contemplation and conversation. designmiami.com

galerie perrotin/claire dorn photo

The multifaceted artist, architect, and designer Daniel Arsham delves into the world that one might call future archaeology in Welcome to the Future, his exhibition at Locust Projects in Miami’s Wynwood arts district. This site-specific installation explores the idea of an architectural dig some one thousand years from now, offering a narrative in which the discoveries include an array of ephemera (boat oars, plastic alligators) and electronic devices (iPhones, Blackberries, cameras, boom boxes, VHS tapes, Walkmans, portable televisions, electric guitars, and more), all made in crystal and volcanic ash, and other materials, and placed in a trench as if they were petrified objects. It runs through January. In 2012 the Brooklyn-based Arsham’s multidisciplinary design studio Snarkitecture, which he operates along with Alex Mustonen, created the Design Miami entrance pavilion—a project called Drift.



The paperweight evolved during the industrial revolution with a well-defined function, to keep correspondence in place with the ever-present gusts of winds in breezy households and offices. In the mid-1800s, a new industry emerged in France that transformed these simple glass or metal objects into glorious works of art. In a paperless, technology-driven society, the paperweight might seem like a relic of the past, but Saint-Louis, the crystal company owned by Hermés, has teamed up with Perrin and Perrin to create funky modern riffs on this traditional staple. Martine and Jacki Perrin spent months observing the company’s master glassmakers at work in the paperweights workshop, the jewel in the Saint-Louis crown.

The Perrins are confirmed autodidacts, and for forty-five years they have pursued a joint quest to discover a variety of writing styles in several mediums. In the 1980s they explored the calligraphy of the Far East, taught by a master who uttered not a word, and in the mid- 1990s they turned their attention to glass. The function of the object and personal encounters with the Saint-Louis craftsmen inspired the duo to create black and white designs meant to evoke the art of writing. The three models of paperweights: Rift, Mesa, and Lapilli, reveal perfectly orchestrated chaos encased in crystal. Each weight is numbered and limited to seventeen examples. After this fall, the lost art of letter writing might not be lost for long. saint-louis.com

— Danielle Devine

The Enduring Appeal of Art Deco

By Brook S. Mason

A heightened interest in art deco design is taking hold these days, say a number of dealers. “As today’s collectors see art deco as the precursor of modern design, that element of historical importance makes for enor­mous appeal,” explains Fabien Mathivet, whose eponymous gallery is located on the Left Bank in Paris. Susan Weber, founder and director of the Bard Graduate Center in New York, says the style resonates on multiple levels. “The pared down silhouettes, luxurious materials, and sophisticated palettes of art deco continue to exert influence in the collector’s market, in museums, and in popular culture,” she notes. Weber cites such exhibitions as Bard’s An American Style: Global Sources for New York Textile and Fashion Design, 1925–1928, and the Centre Pompidou’s Eileen Gray, as well as last year’s remake of The Great Gatsby as reflecting the “enduring influence of this style.”

Cascades of glass beads form the shades on a pair of silvered-metal sconces by André Groult, c. 1922. Courtesy of Galerie Mathivet.

Commode in amaranth wood with lapis–lazuli inlay and silvered-metal handles by Marcel Charles Coard, designed 1928–1929. Courtesy of Galerie Marcilhac.

One index of soaring prices for art deco in the auction world is Eileen Gray’s Fauteuil aux Dragons of about 1917, which climbed to an astonishing $28 million-plus at the Christie’s Yves St. Laurent and Pierre Bergé sale on February 23, 2009. That record price remains unbroken, but there have been some other hefty sales. At Christie’s auction of Steven A. Greenberg’s holdings, on December 12, 2012, a Jean Dunand vase of lacquered metal inlaid with eggshell from about 1925 went for $902,500 against an estimate of $150,000 to $200,000. Most recently, at Sotheby’s Paris sale of Félix Marcilhac’s private collection on March 11 of this year, a 1924 Pierre Legrain nickel-plated brass and glass console far surpassed its $139,000 to $167,000 estimate and climbed to $852,790.

“L’Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels moderns, which was held here in Paris in 1925 had a profound effect on design” says Fabien Mathivet. “A stunning sixteen million visitors took in that exposition—whose name gave rise to the term art deco—to see outstanding examples from the period.” At this fall’s Paris Biennale, Mathivet showcased a rare 1925 circular Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann rug with a beige background and a design of rose rosettes along with a pair of 1922 André Groult silvered-brass sconces with cascades of glass beads as shades. Interior designers Jacques Grange, David Kleinberg, and Tony Ingrao frequently acquire art deco design from Mathivet.

Another Biennale participant, Galerie Marcilhac, also on the Left Bank, likewise specializes in deco. “Both new and seasoned collectors are drawn to the highly refined craftsmanship,” Félix Marcilhac says. He cites a commode by Marcel Charles Coard in amaranth wood with lapis-lazuli inlay and silvered-metal handles as a fine example. Another is Oiseaux Exotique, a 1928 Jean Dunand and Jean Lambert Rucki lacquered screen inset with painted silk panels. “As demand for art deco design has doubled in the past five years, sourcing masterpieces is increasingly difficult,” he says. He has a waiting list for pieces by Ruhlmann.

The steady stream of interior designers seeking out Marcilhac include François-Joseph Graf, François Catroux, and William Sofield. As for other fairs, Marcilhac will take part in PAD London and Salon: Art and Design in New York.

Silver tea and coffee service made by Roberts and Belk, Sheffield, England, 1932–1936. Courtesy of Koopman Rare Art.

Lewis Smith, who serves as director of Koopman Rare Art in London, is witness­ing widespread interest in art deco silver. “Our market is truly international with clients from America, South America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, South Africa, and Australia,” says Smith, whose fair roster includes the Haughton International Fine Art and Antique Dealers Show in New York in October, TEFAF, Masterpiece London, and the Fine Art Asia fair in Hong Kong. Certain to be snapped up is a George V tea and coffee service made in Sheffield in the 1930s by Roberts and Belk.

Specializing in period silver and design, Michael James who founded the Silver Fund, also in London, has opened a 2,500-square-foot gallery in Palm Beach. In addition to period silver, he now carries art deco furniture and lighting. “Because the 1920s were really the beginning of a kind of minimalism, as the designs were linear and the decoration pared down, more contemporary art and design collectors are requesting Jean Puiforcat and Georg Jensen silver,” James says. He cites Harald Nielsen’s iconic 1930 Dolphin Pyramid pattern fish dishes with covers, which were designed for Jensen, as highly sought.

Architect Peter Marino and interior designers Juan Montoya and Jamie Drake routinely purchase deco silver from James. He participates in the October Haughton show as well as the American International Fine Art Fair in Palm Beach, Master­piece London, and others.

This is the only known example of this Émile- Jacques Ruhlmann armchair, documented in a studio photograph of c. 1922. Coutesy of Calderwood Gallery.

Gary Calderwood launched the Calderwood Gallery in Philadelphia in 1982 and today has thirty thousand square feet in the downtown area devoted to art deco. He says collectors especially prize examples that were included in the 1925 Paris exposition, such as an amboyna wood piano designed by Maurice Dufrène that was showcased at the fair. “With its sleek lines, the piano is a work of sculpture in its own right,” Calderwood says, adding, “we also have the original studio photograph of the piano.” Another important piece at Calderwood is a mahogany Ruhlmann armchair with an oval back and faceted legs tapered at the bottom. “It is the only known example of that model,” Calderwood says.

Calderwood does not participate in any fairs—the core of his business is with architects and interior designers internationally. “We even have designers from Japan as clients,” he says. 

Longtime dealer in art deco and modernism Ric Emmett of the Modernism Gallery was forced to close his Coral Gables, Florida, premises due to a fire in 2004, but has been operating privately and online since. He has just opened a Miami premises where he sees even more clients drawn to art deco design. “Clients appreciate the grain of the wood and lacquer as well as the element of historical importance,” he notes. Currently, he has a group of graphics related to the 1925 exposition, including the poster shown here, by Robert Bonfils  (the entire set is $75,000). With a growing number of col­lectors, demand for quality has more than tripled, Emmett reports. “Prices currently are more than double what they were before the recession.” Emmett has sold exam­ples to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Colorful birds are enameled over a copper base on this c. 1930 vase signed by Camille Fauré. Courtesy of Valerio Art Deco.

Nearby in Coral Gables, Valerio Art Deco has been in business since 1982. Waltford Gonzalez, who serves as gallery director, reports their clientele has grown far more international and now includes South Americans, Russians, and Chinese. “Clients are attracted to the exotic materials like amboyna and shagreen along with French glass and fine enamel work,” he says. Gonzalez points to a 1925 Edgar Brandt gilt-bronze table lamp with a Daum shade as certain to find favor. “A similar example was in the Yves St. Laurent sale,” he notes. Frequently requested are vases and table lamps by Camille Fauré. “A classic example is a Fauré vase from about 1930 with a design of birds in hand-applied enamel over a copper base.”  

On the Upper East Side of Man­­hat­tan, Tony DeLorenzo’s DeLorenzo Gal­­­­­lery has long been a pacesetter when it comes to art deco. Located for many years on Madison Ave­nue, the gallery moved to a new location on East 76th Street in September. Adriana Friedman, DeLorenzo’s director, says the deco period “demanded linear, non-con­structive design, different from the previous art nouveau era.” She refers to a pair of Pierre Chareau wall sconces as “totally minimalist,” juxtaposing hand-hammered iron plates with alabaster block shades. “There was not only innovation in design, but also in the use of disparate fine materials that, when used together, provided profound aesthetic innovation.” In that regard Friedman cites a Marcel Coard cabinet that incorporates shagreen, lapis lazuli, lacquer, and macassar ebony all in one piece. The gallery will offer a Ruhlmann prototype chair of lacquered metal from Michael Chow’s collection at Salon: Art and Design in November. Samuel Amoia, who will be designing their stand at the fair, is just one of many designers plucking up art deco pieces at DeLorenzo.

Gio Ponti designed this mirror hand blown by Venini. Courtesy of R. Louis Bofferding Decorative and Fine Art.

R. Louis Bofferding Decorative and Fine Art, also on the Upper East Side, focuses on design from the 1920s through the 1960s. Just this summer, Bofferding sold the rare 1928 Gio Ponti mirror shown above. “Hand-blown by Venini, the mirror was made for the 1928 Venice Biennale,” Bofferding says, adding that it is the only one known to survive. Currently, he is offering an orange Venini glass bowl of about 1928. 

Bofferding’s A-list clientele includes figures as diverse as interior designers Jacques Grange, Alex Papachristidis, and Mario Buatta along with fashion designer Valentino, art dealer Matthew Marks, and art consultant Tobias Meyer.

Private New York dealer Dr. Stephen E. Kelly, whose Kelly Gallery specializes in 1920s and 1930s design, says the global market for pre-1900 antiques is “past its prime.” “Decorative arts from the 1920s work well in contemporary interiors and also with twentieth-century fine art like Mark Rothko and Franz Kline,” he notes. He is currently featuring an Eileen Gray lacquered screen of about 1922. Among the ceramics he has on exhibit is a 1923 Henri Simmen and Eugenie O’Kin miniature stoneware jar in deep blue with a carved ivory top, from the collection of Karl Lagerfeld. Kelly’s clients hail from Europe, Australia, and Hong Kong.

Pierre Chareau’s model MT344 stools of 1926 are fashioned in wrought iron and mahogany. Courtesy of Maison Gerard.

In Greenwich Village Maison Gerard has long attracted art deco enthusiasts. Of particular note is a 1926 Jules Leleu amboy­­na barbière, or shaving stand, with nickeled-bronze fittings. “It was designed for the family of filmmaker Louis Malle,” says gallery partner Benoist Drut. “With its spare, elong­ated design and distinguished prove­nance, it is bound to be snapped up quickly.” Also of interest is a pair of 1926 Pierre Chareau mahogany and wrought-iron stools marked by spare lines and a total lack of orna­mentation. On Drut’s fair roster is the Haughton International show, the Winter Antiques Show, and the Collective Design Fair, all in New York. Designers who are clients include Thad Hayes, Michael Smith, and Brian McCarthy.

Reneé Lalique’s Stockholm III is one of the four Stockholm chandeliers introduced in 1927. Courtesy of Paul Stamati Gallery.

The Paul Stamati Gallery in Long Island City, New York, specializes in period Lalique glass and art deco furniture, with the largest selection of Lalique glass in the world. A starlike 1927 Lalique Stockholm III chandelier is tagged at $60,000. “As the techniques required in producing Lalique glass are so complex and the machinery so heavy, there are no fakes on the market,” Stamati says. Among his art deco furnishings is a 1920 Raymond Subes console in wrought iron for $12,500. Designers favoring ex­amples from Stamati include Robert Couturier and David Kleinberg.

In Los Angeles, Morateur Gallery pulls in such clients as fashion designer Tom Ford and architect Peter Marino, among others. Philippe Morateur opened his gallery in Paris in 1991 and moved to L.A. in 2009. Currently he has on display a set of six large Ruhlmann etched and gilded-glass panels, never seen outside of Paris before. They’re from the historic Parisian restaurant Drouant, for which Ruhlmann designed the entire interior in 1924. Also certain to spark interest is a 1935 Eugène Printz palm wood and oxidized-brass desk with curvilinear brass legs. “It’s exceedingly rare, perhaps one of only three,” Morateur says. In addition, he has a circa 1925 Albert Cheuret patinated bronze clock with an alabaster face and a silver key.

He has sold to such prestigious in­sti­tutions as the Musée des Années 30 in Paris. He says interest in design by the masters of art deco has never declined. “As the taste for art deco endures, the value will never be diminished,” he adds, noting that art deco pieces mix well with both modern and contemporary design.

“The twenties design style is timeless,” Adriana Friedman concurs. “The stream­lining of design coupled with the richness of the materials and fine craftsmanship in deco makes it the perfect counterpoint to a range of design and fine art today,” Kelly adds.