“Alexander Girard. A Designer’s Universe” the artist’s collections at Vitra

Vitra Design Museum has dedicated this comprehensive exhibition to the life’s work of the multifaceted designer that brought together modern art, architecture and design with folk art and traditional textile craftmanship.

 

Design for matchboxes of the restaurant La Fonda del Sol, Alexander Girard, 1960 © Alexander Girard Estate, Vitra Design Museum

Design for matchboxes of the restaurant La Fonda del Sol, Alexander Girard, 1960 © Alexander Girard Estate, Vitra Design Museum

 

Alexander Girard (1907- 1993) was one of the most influential interior and textile designers of the 20th century. His playful designs attest to a passion for colour, ornamentation and international folk art, with which he shaped the aesthetic of American design in the postwar era and anticipated the globalization of design by decades. In March 2016, the Vitra Design Museum will open the first major retrospective on Alexander Girard.

The exhibition presents his oeuvre with a never before shown multitude of textiles, furnishings, models, small objects, interiors, personal documents, and drawings. At the same time, it sheds light on Girard’s inspirations and the contemporaries who influenced his creative universe- from his extensive collection of folk art to his collaborations with Charles & Ray Eames and Eero Saarinen. The exhibition also features Girard’s private estafe, which is held by the Vitra Design Museum.


 

Practical information

“Alexander Girard. A Designer’s Universe”
12 March 2016 – 22 January 2017
Vitra Design Museum
Charles-Eames-Straße 2, Weil am Rhein
Germany

 


In 1996, the Vitra Design Museum took possession of Girard‘s personal estate. The holdings encompass 5,000 drawings and photographs respectively, many never before shown personal sketches, several hundred textile samples, accessories, furniture items and folk art objects. This archive serves as the basis for the exhibition “Alexander Girard. A Designer ‘s Universe“. Further exhibition  objects are on loan from the Folk Art Museum in Santa Fe as well as Alexander Girard’s family.

 

View of exhibition "Alexander Girard. A designer's universe" © Vitra Design Museum. Photo: Mark Niedermann

View of exhibition “Alexander Girard. A designer’s universe” © Vitra Design Museum. Photo: Mark Niedermann

View of exhibition "Alexander Girard. A designer's universe" © Vitra Design Museum. Photo: Mark Niedermann

View of exhibition “Alexander Girard. A designer’s universe” © Vitra Design Museum. Photo: Mark Niedermann

View of exhibition "Alexander Girard. A designer's universe" © Vitra Design Museum. Photo: Mark Niedermann

View of exhibition “Alexander Girard. A designer’s universe” © Vitra Design Museum. Photo: Mark Niedermann

 

The exhibition design is being created by the London-based studio Raw Edges, headed  by Shay Alkalay and Yael Mer. Like Girard,the duo’s work is characterized by a keen interest in colours and patterns. Over the past years, Raw Edges has achieved international acclaim  with its installations for such companies as Kvadrat, Moroso and Luis Vuitton.

The exhibition is accompanied by an over 500-page catalogue. The publication provides the first scholarly examination of Girard’s oeuvre in the form of multiple essays, an extensive list of works and a comprehensive biography.

 

View of exhibition "Alexander Girard. A designer's universe" © Vitra Design Museum. Photo: Mark Niedermann

View of exhibition “Alexander Girard. A designer’s universe” © Vitra Design Museum. Photo: Mark Niedermann

View of exhibition "Alexander Girard. A designer's universe" © Vitra Design Museum. Photo: Mark Niedermann

View of exhibition “Alexander Girard. A designer’s universe” © Vitra Design Museum. Photo: Mark Niedermann

View of exhibition "Alexander Girard. A designer's universe" © Vitra Design Museum. Photo: Mark Niedermann

View of exhibition “Alexander Girard. A designer’s universe” © Vitra Design Museum. Photo: Mark Niedermann

 

ABOUT ALEXANDER GIRARD

Raised in a cosmopolitan family with European and American  roots, he grew up in Florence, studied architecture in London, and then lived in New York and Michigan before eventually settling in Santa Fe. Practising from the late 1920s until the late 1970s, he created  stunning interiors for restaurants, private clients and corporations, as well as more than 300 textile designs – mostly for the American furniture company Herman Miller after becoming director of its textile division in 1951. Girard’s  clients also included companies like Braniff lnternational Airways and John Deere for which he handled a broad range of design activities  – from interior design, textiles, furnishings and small objects to typography, corporate design and exhibitions.

 

View of exhibition "Alexander Girard. A designer's universe" © Vitra Design Museum. Photo: Mark Niedermann

View of exhibition “Alexander Girard. A designer’s universe” © Vitra Design Museum. Photo: Mark Niedermann

View of exhibition "Alexander Girard. A designer's universe" © Vitra Design Museum. Photo: Mark Niedermann

View of exhibition “Alexander Girard. A designer’s universe” © Vitra Design Museum. Photo: Mark Niedermann

View of exhibition "Alexander Girard. A designer's universe" © Vitra Design Museum. Photo: Mark Niedermann

View of exhibition “Alexander Girard. A designer’s universe” © Vitra Design Museum. Photo: Mark Niedermann

 

Among Girard’s most well-known works are the interior design of the lrwin Miller  House in Columbus, Indiana (1957, architect:  Eero Saarinen), his own home in Santa Fe (from 1953) and the legendary restaurants La Fonda Del Sol (1960) and L’Etoile (1966) in New York,where even Andy Warhol was a frequent guest. In 1965, Girard developed the complete corporate design for Braniff, applying his characteristic visual language of vibrant colours and patterns to tickets, the lounge areas, and even the planes themselves. Yet he also created influential  works on a much smaller scale, such as his design of the “love” motif, which remains one of Girard’s most well known graphic  images to this day.

 

Textiles and objects shop, New York, designed by Alexander Girard for Herman Miller, 1961 © Alexander Girard Estate, Vitra Design Museum

Textiles and objects shop, New York, designed by Alexander Girard for Herman Miller, 1961 © Alexander Girard Estate, Vitra Design Museum

View of exhibition "Alexander Girard. A designer's universe" © Vitra Design Museum. Photo: Mark Niedermann

View of exhibition “Alexander Girard. A designer’s universe” © Vitra Design Museum. Photo: Mark Niedermann

 

An important  source of inspiration for Girard was his extensive collection of folk art objects,which he accumulated on his travels through Mexico,India, Egypt and other countries and which ultimately comprised more than 100,000 artefacts. Many of these objects were used by Girard in his interior design projects or in spectacular exhibitions, such as the “Textiles and Ornamental Arts of India” show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1954) or the “Magic of a People” pavilion  he designed for the Hemis Fair World’s  Fair (1968) in San Antonio, Texas, for which he meticulously displayed more than 10,000 of his collected artefacts.

 

Miller Cottage, Muskoka, Ontario, Canada, Alexander Girard 1950-1952 © Foto: Balthazar Korab, courtesy of The Library of Congress

Miller Cottage, Muskoka, Ontario, Canada, Alexander Girard 1950-1952 © Foto: Balthazar Korab, courtesy of The Library of Congress

Miller House, Columbus, Indiana, USA, Alexander Girard,  1953-1957 © Foto: Balthazar Korab, courtesy of The Library of Congress

Miller House, Columbus, Indiana, USA, Alexander Girard, 1953-1957 © Foto: Balthazar Korab, courtesy of The Library of Congress

Miller House, Columbus, Indiana, USA, Alexander Girard,  1953-1957 © Foto: Balthazar Korab, courtesy of The Library of Congress

Miller House, Columbus, Indiana, USA, Alexander Girard, 1953-1957 © Foto: Balthazar Korab, courtesy of The Library of Congress

 

Even if Girard’s  work is less well known than that of prominent contemporories such as Charles & Ray Eames, his oeuvre has experienced a revival in more recent years. Girard’s often underestimated significance lies in the fact that he restored what classical modernism had rejected in design- colour, decoration, opulent interiors. With an ingenious ease, he combined ostensible antagonists: craftsmanship  and industry, pop culture and high culture, playful décor with masterful reduction. From today’s perspective Girard, anticipoted many developments of the following decades:  from the colourful language of postmodernism to the current debates on post-industrial design and the globalisation of our everyday aesthetic.


 

News source: Vitra Design Museum
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