An in-depth exhibition on the work of the influential Brazilian Modernist furniture designer Joaquim Tenreiro (1906-1992) is set to debut at the R 20th Century gallery in New York City on Tuesday, November 12.
Curated by international art dealer Gordon VeneKlasen, who is also one of the leading collectors of Tenreiro's work, the exhibition will be designed by architect Annabelle Selldorf, known for her cultural and art-related projects.
“I have been collecting the work of Tenreiro for more than a decade,” said VeneKlasen. “The first time I saw one of his pieces I knew immediately that he was an innovator in the truest sense of the word, as there is something exceptional about the work in terms of his use of forms and materials. I’m happy to see that interest in him is catching up to the quality of the work.”
“It is an honor to work with Gordon, who is an amazing collector,” said R 20th Century principal Zesty Meyers. “He instinctively understands the work and why Tenreiro is one of the premier designers of his time."
The exhibition will consist of groundbreaking pieces produced between the 1940s and 1960s, with diverse works that range from early variations on sinuous side chairs, to a two-seat “tree trunk” bench, to his iconic dining table based on the soft-sided triangular shape of tailor’s chalk. Along with these timeless objects, the gallery will display a selection of Tenreiro’s rarely seen drawings and ephemera from private collections.
Often referred to as the father of 20th Century Brazilian design, Tenreiro was one of the first South American designers to adopt a European Modernist vernacular. Born into a well-known Portuguese family of furniture joiners, Tenreiro immigrated to Rio de Janeiro at the age of 22 to work for Brazilian furniture companies, including Leandro Martins and Laubisch and Hirth. Concurrently, Tenreiro studied fine art and design at Rio’s Escola Nacional de Belas Artes, a conduit of modernist theory, which, at the time, influenced a generation of Brazilian artists that also included Oscar Niemeyer and Candido Portinari.
In 1943, Tenreiro founded his own firm, Langenbach and Tenreiro Ltda, and quickly gained recognition for his characteristic slender geometries and curvilinear accents. His design ethos was to demand, in the artist’s own words, “a lightness which has nothing to do with weight itself, but with graciousness, and the functionality of spaces."
In 1967, overwhelmed by his ceaseless tendency towards perfectionism, Tenreiro walked away from furniture design to dedicate his time exclusively to producing fine art. Despite his relatively early retirement, his influence as a designer can still be felt throughout Brazil and elsewhere.
This exhibition, the designer’s first North American solo exhibition, will raise awareness of Tenreiro, who—while widely recognized in Brazil—has just begun to gain international recognition.
R20th Century will host an opening reception on Tuesday, November 12 from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. and the exhibition will be on display through January 4.