Design Diary

A personal review of design creations.

Modern Maharaja, an incredible dream

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A visionary, a patron of the arts, an aesthete, an Indian royal with a passion for the European avant-garde, the Maharaja of Indore was a living legend of the 20th century from both worlds.


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With a beautiful exhibition, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (MAD) pays tribute to the extraordinary life of the Maharaja of Indore, an Indian prince with one of the most important private collections of Modernist furniture and decorative arts in the world.

This visionary patron of
 the arts became a central figure of the international elite and the European cultural milieu of the 1920s and 1930s.

 

Yeshwant Rao Holkar II (1908-1961), better known under the name of Maharaja of Indore, is the perfect incarnation a modern man in the 1930s. Attracted to the beautiful, the young man with a thin silhouette and tapered hands combines tradition, intuition and audacity.

 He spent the majority of his youth in the luxurious and stately conditions afforded to the princes of India. During
the 1920s, Holkar II was sent to study
at Oxford in England where a French-speaking private tutor, Dr. Marcel Hardy, introduced him to the cultural milieu
 of European modern artists. Under the guidance of Dr. Hardy, Holkar II met two figures who would become instrumental in his artistic pursuits: the German modern architect Eckart Muthesius (1904-1989) and French artistic advisor and writer Henri-Pierre Roché (1879-1959), both of whom were closely linked to the avant-garde. Together, they visited England, Germany and France, exploring art fairs, museum exhibitions, galleries and artist’s workshops, rousing in Holkar II a passion for Modern Art. 

Monogram for letter head by Jean Puiforcat (end 1920s)

Monogram for letter head by Jean Puiforcat (end 1920s)

Upon his father’s abdication in 1926, Holkar II acceded to the throne as Maharaja of Indore and became entitled to vast wealth and influence. In 1929, shortly after meeting the eminent French couturier and collector Jacques Doucet (1853-1929) in Paris and seeing his studio and collection, the Maharaja decided to erect a grand palace in his native India where he would combine luxury, comfort and modernity, embracing the features of the Modernist movement. 

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In 1930, Eckart Muthesius, the Maharaja’s good friend and mentor, was put in charge of drawing up the blue print. This entailed transforming the foundations of a pre- existing building in order to construct a Modern private residence for the Maharaja and his wife, the Maharani Sanyogita Bai Devi (1914-1937). Designed with their daily needs in mind, the Manik Bagh Palace was decorated with fittings and furniture that glorified the most innovative materials of the period such as metal, synthetic leather and glass, while paying special attention to color within each room. Nearly twenty hand-selected interior designers furnished the rooms, now iconic of the Modern period. 

Some of the most emblematic pieces include Transat armchairs by Irish designer Eileen Gray (1878-1976); a pair of red synthetic leather armchairs with integrated lamps by Eckart Muthesius; beds in metal and glass by French designers Louis Sognot (1892-1970) and Charlotte Alix (1892-1987) designed for the respective bedrooms of the royal couple; and rugs by French painter and weaver Ivan Da Silva Bruhns (1881-1980) that covered the palace floors like vast abstract paintings. 

Unlike his peers, the Maharaja is involved in the design of the works he orders and acquires artworks from Brancusi, is photographed by Man Ray, portraited by Boutet de Monvel (whose paintings are gathered for the first time).

Chaise longue basculante B 306_Thonet edition by Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand & Pierre Jeanneret, 1931

Chaise longue basculante B 306_Thonet edition by Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand & Pierre Jeanneret, 1931

The death in 1937 of the Sanyogita Maharani, who shared his same avant-garde vision of the arts, marks the end of orders. The prince travels and makes two new marriages as the world sinks into a war leading to end of the British Empire in India and, with it, the collapse of the Indian royalties. The palace and its contents are sold in 1980. 

The exhibition unveils the Maharaja’s innovative world, unerringly representative of Modernism and a central moment in the history of decorative arts. It begins with an introduction of the Maharajah of Indore and the Holkar Dynasty to which he belonged and the construction of the palace. 

Chaise Longue 114, René Herbst, 1931

Chaise Longue 114, René Herbst, 1931

A highlight of commissions given to Eckart Muthesius follows, including a furnished private train, an airplane and a caravan, as well as unrealised projects such as a riverboat and a summer palace. 

Maharaja of Indore, Man Ray, 1927-1930

Maharaja of Indore, Man Ray, 1927-1930

The Central Hall of MAD displays previously unseen films by Eckart Muthesius, offering a glimpse of the Maharajah and his wife at home as well as overseeing traditional ceremonies throughout Indore. 

The Maharaja was an active collector of Modern furnishings. The museum has recreated his office, the royal couple’s respective bedrooms, and the library.

His activities as a collector are also the focus of a section devoted to the salons and exhibitions of the 1920s and 1930s, namely the Salon of the Union des Artistes Modernes and the Salon d’Automne in Paris, where the Maharaja made numerous acquisitions of furniture and objects.

Important commissions for the dining room will also be displayed, including china by French ceramicist Jean Luce (1895-1964) and silverware by Jean Puiforcat (1897- 1945).

 

The exhibition also evokes the Maharaja’s marked interest in the great jewellery houses of the time such as Van Cleef
& Arpels, Harry Winston and Chaumet, all of whom created majestic pieces for the Maharani. 

Man Ray, 1927-1930

Man Ray, 1927-1930

The BGC Studio scenographers turned the MAD into a palace with a red and black floor and walls giving the illusion of mirrors to amplify the space. Curators Raphaëlle Billé and Louise Curtis have spent many months in the often unpublished archives.

The exhibition runs until From January
12, 2020 at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs.

Picture credits and acknowledgements: Adagp, Paris, 2019; Collection Vera Muthesius; Prudence Cuming; Phillips Auctioneers Ltd; Sotheby’s / Art Digital Studio, Ecl’art – Galerie Doria, Paris; Man Ray 2015 Trust; Centre Pompidou MNAM-CCI; Guy Carrard; Patrimoine Puiforcat; Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Jean Tholance; Collection Heribert Neuwöhner.

La Maison Plissée

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Right next to the Montparnasse train station, in the popular rue Pernety in Paris, the “Maison Plissée” brings a contemporary touch to the neighbourhood.


After a radical complete destruction of a small old house, WRA (Wild Rabbits Architecture) designed and built a brand new home over 7 floors with a light weighted metallic lacework on its façade. The pleated look naturally gave its name to the house.

The new home includes a garden, an elevator, a panoramic roof with a penthouse.

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The plan of the lower floors is so stiff that the clients can do whatever they desire with it. A free space on the street-side, a technical strip on the interior court where are gently aligned the staircase elevator and water room in little square slots. A curtain wall with a balcony on one side and large windows on the other. There is one function per level, the big black room that can’t manage to be dark is up top of the office & fitness which is up top of the little rooms with their hammams.

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With this street facade completely glassed, from the interior the beautiful Haussmann-style in front is... there. But from the outside, the set of metal veiling on the glass reflection protects perfectly from the curious looks.

The spiraled steel mesh is produced industrially for exterior and interior architecture. Alike most metal tissues, this material is perennial and withstands clogging very well. Often used for less prestigious usages (parking lots, sports fields) it offers effects of a rare finesse.

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The implementation is made by METALEX, a brand-new company particularly involved in details of digital cuts of prefabricated items. The foreshores are bent like paper on a height of over 18cm.

Pictures by Daniel Moulinet and Yvan Moreau.

Révélations 2019: The World of Fine Craft in Paris

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Révélations is set to open from May 23rd until 26th at the Grand Palais in Paris. 450 artists from 30 countries will be showcased with new sections and Luxembourg as Guest of Honour.


The fourth edition of the international fine crafts and contemporary creation biennial Révélations is returning to Paris, hosting over 40,000 visitors with an even greater focus on showcasing its international dimension and cultural programme both inside the venue and out, Révélations 2019 is pushing its boundaries and aspirations a little further afield.

Nathalie Massenet Dollfus: 2 Butterflies, handblown glass © Nathalie Massenet Dollfus

Nathalie Massenet Dollfus: 2 Butterflies, handblown glass © Nathalie Massenet Dollfus

Révélations has been run by Ateliers d’Art de France since its inception in 2013, and is attended by an illustrious steadily-growing audience. The scenography by Adrien Gardère offers an equal staging to the 450 creators, removing any hierarchy or gimmicks allowing these exceptional works forge a strong connection between creator and visitor.

L. Andrighetto & J-C MIOT - BUOYS (glass & hemp)

L. Andrighetto & J-C MIOT - BUOYS (glass & hemp)

The Biennal welcomes 33 countries represented, doubling the total of the previous edition. Following on from Chile, Luxembourg is this year’s featured country: a combination of tradition and innovation, the Grand Duchy is home to a myriad of crafts and will be showcasing them in all their glory. The selection of 15 artists has been curated by Jean-Marc Dimanche and the staging is made by Gilles Gardula under the patronage of Their Royal Highnesses Prince Guillaume, the crown Grand Duke of Luxembourg, and Princess Stéphanie, the crown Grand Duchess of Luxembourg.

The artists are Ellen van der Woude (ceramic), Camille Jacobs (master stained glass), Jeitz & Calliste, Sarah Meyers & Laura Fügmann (textile and ceramic), Pascale Seil (master glass-blower), Doris Becker (ceramic), Marie-Isabelle Callier (encaustic painter), Tom Flick (sculpture), Sandy Kahlich (milliner), Ezri Kahn (artisan couturier), Carine Mertes (felt designer), Claude Schmitz (jewellery), Léa Schroeder and Marianne Steinmetzer (ceramic), and Kim-Jung Vu (jewellery).

Artists below are Wouter van der Vlugt & Roxanne Flick + Michael Nätscher.

As for the backbone of the event, the ‘Le Banquet' international exhibition will continue its world tour, inviting nine other countries (Thailand, Romania, India, Iran, Cameroon, South Africa, Spain, Chile, Luxembourg,  to stand alongside France and the featured country. In doing so, the biennial puts its international dimension firmly in the spotlight, supported even further by the number of European and international visitors in attendance. Here are some creations from:

South Africa: Artists featured below: Marisa Fick Jordan (Ukhamba Zulu basket; 2018; Telephone wire) & Chuma Maweni (Painted Ceramic; 2018)

Cameroon: Artists featured below: Beya Gille Gacha (Orant; 2017; pearls embellisched sculpture) & Edith Tialeu (Nubie: 2018; Ceramic)

Iran: Artists featured below: Kourosh Arish (Threshold; 2018; Ceramic, earthenware, alkaline glaze, hand painting) & Behzad Ajdari (Passing; 2018; Ceramic & metal)

India: Artists featured below: Om Prakash Galav (Kagzi pottery; 2018) & Prithviraj Singh Deo (Kangan; 2013; Ceramic)

Finally, the Norwegian designer, Hanne Friis created a piece that embodies the identity of Révélations 2019. ‘Nuances in Blue and Black’ (pictures courtesy of Oystein Thorvaldsen) is a huge sculpture made from blue and black jeans, and is the result of tremendous sewing effort transforming loose fabrics into a compact mass.

Hero picture: Somdulyawat Chalermkiat (Thailand) Bua; 2016; Metal flower pot

Untitled Karl

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From fashion to photography, Karl Lagerfeld is a genius ‘touche à tout’. He is now launching his first ever series of sculptural works in Paris.


‘Architectures’ will be unveiled at Carpenters Workshop Gallery in Paris on October 19th (until December 23rd). The collection is made of an artistic series of functional sculptures designed by Karl Lagerfeld and directly inspired by Antiquity, referred to as the origin of beauty, culture and modernity by the designer.

© Carpenters Workshop Gallery

© Carpenters Workshop Gallery

With a precise use of canonical proportions born from the use of the golden ratio and the most noble material, marble, the ensemble of gueridons, tables, lamps, consoles, fountains and mirrors materialize the perfect balance of classical foundations with a present-day vibe, like a modern mythology. 

© Carpenters Workshop Gallery

© Carpenters Workshop Gallery

Each piece is carved from a carefully selected marble block, the Arabescato Fantastico, a rare vibrant white marble with dark grey veins which has not been quarried for more than thirty years, or black Nero Marquina marble, curated for its brush stroke-like, milky white veins. The combination of the material uniqueness with the timeless designs makes every piece exclusive. 

Only available as limited edition of eight pieces in each marble color, plus four artist proofs, each sculptural work is made with the special marble, which is then precisely cut, sculpted, faceted and polished in Italy by the best craftsmen, to achieve the vibrant exactness of the elements.

The architect Aline Asmar d’Amman carried out the studies and the development of the works created by Karl Lagerfeld. 

© Carpenters Workshop Gallery

© Carpenters Workshop Gallery