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.
Jean Prouvé, 'Compas' desk, 1953 © Paris, museé des Arts Décoratifs, photo Laurent Sully-Jaulmes, Authorisation: ADAGP
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.
Charlotte Perriand, 'Ombre' chair, 1954, édition Tendo, musée des Arts Décoratifs collection, Paris, photo Jean Tholance, Authorisation: ADAGP
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.
Antoine Philippon & Jacqueline Lecoq, 'Multifunctional furniture' (TV, record-player and bar), 1958–59, musée des Arts Décoratifs collection, Paris, photo Jean Tholance
Christian Germanaz, 'Half and Half' armchairs, 1968, Édition Airborne, Paris, musée des Arts Décoratifs, dépôt du FNAC
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.
'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
Magistretti created a remarkable 25 families of lights during his 30-year collaboration with Oluce
to the Oluce collections on Architonic
to Vico Magistretti's designs on Architonic
to the Ligne Roset collections on Architonic
to Charlotte Perriand's designs on Architonic
to Jean Prouvé's designs on Architonic
to Pierre Paulin's designs on Architonic
to Michel Ducaroy's designs on Architonic
to Les Arts Décoratifs website
to the Oluce website