Loll on lips, slumber in a womb: a new look at design

23rd September 2007, Comments 0 comments

23 September 2007, PARIS (AFP) - Plumping on a lip-shaped sofa or giant foot, bedding down in a womb-room complete with bath facilities -- a ground-breaking Paris exhibition this week takes a fresh and often witty look at the inspiration behind two centuries of design.

23 September 2007

PARIS (AFP) - Plumping on a lip-shaped sofa or giant foot, bedding down in a womb-room complete with bath facilities -- a ground-breaking Paris exhibition this week takes a fresh and often witty look at the inspiration behind two centuries of design.

"We have tried to approach design a little differently," said curator Jean-Louis Gaillemin, an art historian and Paris university lecturer.

Opening Wednesday and running till January 7 at Paris' prestigious Grand Palais museum, "Design Contre Design" (Design Against Design) looks at the various factors at work in the creation of almost 200 mostly-iconic objects and household furniture by the world's top designers.

Opting against chronology, the show instead pairs contemporary works with those crafted as far back as the 19th century to hone in on the shapes, styles and influences from the human or animal and natural worlds that have inspired designers over the years.

"Critics often say design shows lack thrust, that they look like auction halls or bargain rooms," said Gaillemin. "Here we have visual coherence and rigorous selection."

From furniture inspired by straight lines, squares and rectangles to curves and circles, the show then traces the influence of classical antiques as well as primitive arts before looking at inspiration from the environment and the human body.

A biomorphic family of chests of drawers -- a father, mother and child -- for instance, includes a 1987 piece in fibre-glass and aluminium by Australia's Marc Newson along with 1925 pieces by France's Andre Groult.

Man Ray's couch shaped like an eye sits alongside a red-lipped sofa inspired by Salvador Dali, an equally iconic foot divan by Italy's Gaetano Pesce, a Dickie chair by Anthony Kleinepier, and a woman in high heel boots turned into a chair by British pop artist Allen Jones that featured in Clockwork Orange.

The animal world includes a headless Cow Bench from 2005 by Germany's Julia Lohman as well as an immense buffet with a cat's head, fish tail, and pig's trotters as legs designed in 1968 by France's Francois-Xavier Lalanne.

Spawned by the industrial revolution some 200 years ago, household furnishings and objects from contemporary times are often strikingly similar to those produced decades back.

The globally-known plastic Tulip chair first designed in 1956 by Eero Saarinen for Knoll is a near-enough look-alike to an Austrian model cicra 1830, as are minimalist spare-lined shelves, tables and other furniture from the 19th century, including a dresser by Edward William Godwin.

With loft-style life in the past decades offering eons of space, the Womb House by Joep Van Lieshout is a 2004 children's bedroom snuggled inside a huge sprawling red construction that comes with shower, refrigerator, toilet and handbasin -- with even a cervix-like tunnel entrance for toddlers.

"This is the return to the womb the Surrealists dreamt about," said Gaillemin, who said a caesarian section was practised on the museum to squeeze it in.

Another large piece is a sleek icicle-tipped three-metre (yard) long couch by celebrated Iraqi-born architect Zaha Hadid called Iceberg from 2003.

A 1970 work by influential Danish designer Verner Panton entitled Phantasy Landscape caps the show as a cocoon-room in night-club hues offering a modern-day taste of life as a Flintstone.

AFP

Subject: French news

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