Simon Keane-Cowell

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Simon Keane-Cowell
Zürich   Schweiz

Déjà Vu All Over Again: two design shows look back


Another year over. But don't get all misty-eyed. Apply that retrospection to some engaging design instead. Two exhibitions currently running, one at Les Arts Décoratifs in Paris, the other at the offices of MariniPandolfi/Comet in Florence, look back at the rapid expansion in design production and consumption in post-war France and the lighting designs of Italian design hero Vico Magistretti respectively. And retrospectively.
 

Déjà Vu All Over Again: two design shows look back
Jean-Louis Avril, 'Chaises et Table', 1967 and 1968, Édition Marty-LAC, lacquered 'carton celloderme', Jean-Louis Avril Collection © Antoine Avril

As we shuffle towards the end of another year, retrospection rears its head once more. Two current design exhibitions, one in Paris, the other in Florence, set out to examine design of the past, one along national lines, the other in terms of a renowned auteur. 'Mobi Boom: the explosion of design in France 1945–1975' at Les Arts Décoratifs and 'Vico Magistretti & Oluce: the story of a partnership 1974–2005' at MariniPandolfi/Comet's Florence offices both embrace a material nostalgia, but not at the expense of criticism.
Déjà Vu All Over Again: two design shows look back
Jean Prouvé, 'Compas' desk, 1953 © Paris, museé des Arts Décoratifs, photo Laurent Sully-Jaulmes, Authorisation: ADAGP

Déjà Vu All Over Again: two design shows look back
Ligne Roset advertisement, Michel Ducaroy, 'Togo', 1973, Édition Roset

What makes the Paris show particularly interesting is its purview: it looks not only at the expansion of design production in post-war France, but also addresses issues of distribution and consumption. Known as 'Les Trentes Glorieuses', the period of 1945 to 1975 saw the arrival of a number of new object types – among them modular storage and multifunctional pieces – images of, and information about, which were confidently disseminated through catalogues and other promotional channels to an increasingly monied public, eager, through consumption, to define themselves as modern. New types of products, or old ones with a radical new form, were, in part made possible through the application of new technologies and materials. Formica, foam and plastic all came to stay.
Déjà Vu All Over Again: two design shows look back
Charlotte Perriand, 'Ombre' chair, 1954, édition Tendo, musée des Arts Décoratifs collection, Paris, photo Jean Tholance, Authorisation: ADAGP

Déjà Vu All Over Again: two design shows look back
Prisunic catalogue, Autumn 1971, Paris, bibliothèque des Arts Décoratifs

Such design-historically renowned names as Charlotte Perriand and Jean Prouvé, well-known before the social and economic rupture of the Second World War, but which continued to grow in profile during the later reconstruction period, are joined by the likes of Pierre Paulin and Michel Ducaroy in the exhibition. Meanwhile, Ligne Roset and Roche Bobois are just some of the French manufacturers represented in this survey. Stylistically, the enforced material austerity in the years directly following the war is displaced by the utopian, future-fetishistic furniture designs of the 1960s. Every exhibition has it limits, however, and if 'Mobi Boom' claims to explore the explosion of design in France in the third quarter of the 20th century, such an undertaking itself can only hope to be a loud pop.
Déjà Vu All Over Again: two design shows look back
Antoine Philippon & Jacqueline Lecoq, 'Multifunctional furniture' (TV, record-player and bar), 1958–59, musée des Arts Décoratifs collection, Paris, photo Jean Tholance

Déjà Vu All Over Again: two design shows look back
Christian Germanaz, 'Half and Half' armchairs, 1968, Édition Airborne, Paris, musée des Arts Décoratifs, dépôt du FNAC

Déjà Vu All Over Again: two design shows look back
Meubles et Fonction shop, 135 boulevard Raspail, Paris, installed by Pierre Paulin in the early 1970s, Meubles et Fonction collection, Pierre Perrigault

Meanwhile in Florence, a monographic show of the work of Italian design hero Vico Magistretti, supported the Magistretti Foundation, uses his collaboration with established lighting manufacturer Oluce as way of framing an exhibitionary engagement with his designs. Over 70 of the architect's original first-production lights are accompanied by numerous sketches and drawings. His geometric fixation and almost obsessive reworking can be witnessed in the 25 families of lamps he designed for the manufacturer in the course of his partnership with them. Euclidean cones and spheres appear in highly graphic designs that seem to transcend the vicissitudes of style to a greater extent than, say, Joe Colombo's work for Oluce. For design devotees, this show is a little piece of heaven.
Déjà Vu All Over Again: two design shows look back
'Vico Magistretti & Oluce: the story of a partnership 1974–2005' at MariniPandolfi/Comet's Florence offices. The exhibition is supported by the Magistretti Foundation and features over 70 of the Italian design hero's lights

Déjà Vu All Over Again: two design shows look back
Magistretti created a remarkable 25 families of lights during his 30-year collaboration with Oluce

to the Oluce collections on Architonic to the Oluce collections on Architonic

to Vico Magistretti's designs on Architonic to Vico Magistretti's designs on Architonic

to the Ligne Roset collections on Architonic to the Ligne Roset collections on Architonic

to Charlotte Perriand's designs on Architonic to Charlotte Perriand's designs on Architonic

to Jean Prouvé's designs on Architonic to Jean Prouvé's designs on Architonic

to Pierre Paulin's designs on Architonic to Pierre Paulin's designs on Architonic

to Michel Ducaroy's designs on Architonic to Michel Ducaroy's designs on Architonic

to Les Arts Décoratifs website to Les Arts Décoratifs website

to the Oluce website to the Oluce website