This week, Demisch Danant gallery unveiled the first American exhibition devoted exclusively to the 20th century furniture created under the Mobilier National, an institution of the République française, conceived to decorate the official palaces and residences of the Republic and to promote the highest levels of beauty, originality and technical innovation in French decorative arts and design.
President's Desk (1968) by Henri Lesetre and a Chaise Grains de café (1971) by Francois Xavier and Claude Lalanne
Mobilier National will present more than 20 rare examples of furniture realized under this extraordinary program between 1964 and 1981 including 1964 and 1981, including Olivier Mourgue’s Montreal Chair and Table (1967), and a selection of Pierre Paulin designs for the Palais de l'Elysée including a rare Bureau de Dame (1981).
Trefle Chair, Rene-Jean Caillette, 1981; Olivier Mourgue, Montreal chairs, 1967
Dating back to the 17th century, the Mobilier National has been responsible for the decoration of the Republic’s many official government spaces at home and abroad. In 1964, the Atelier de Recherche et Creation (ARC) was created under the Mobilier National to promote a uniquely French contemporary style by engaging and supporting the work of French designers and artists. Since the 1960s, the ARC has realized over 500 prototypes for furniture and lighting, including many objects now viewed as icons of modernity. Pierre Paulin and Olivier Mourgue were the first to participate in the Mobilier National’s ARC in the 1960s. They were followed over ensuing decades by such significant figures as Elizabeth Garouste and Mattia Bonetti, and Martin Szekely in the 1980s, and Ronan and Erwan Bourroullec in the 1990s. Today, ARC continues to promote extraordinary artistic creativity in France, providing leading designers and new talents alike the resources necessary to experiment with new techniques and materials.
Salon at the Palais de l 'Elysée, 1971. Pierre Paulin was commissioned by the Mobilier National to design the private apartments of President George Pompidou.
The exhibition focuses primarily upon the important commissions that emerged during the ARC’s first years. In 1967 the Mobilier National requested Olivier Mourgue to design the seats and tables for the French Pavilion at Expo ‘67 in Montreal. The organization commissione Paulin to furnish the private apartments of President George Pompidou at the Palais de l'Elysée in 1969, and for the Exposition Universal in Osaka in 1970, where Paulin’s now famous Amphis sofa was unveiled. In these cases, the ARC-sponsored prototypes gave way to editions through commercial entities, allowing the vision and talent of French designers to emanate beyond the nation’s borders, influencing design internationally. These curved and softened objects heralded the beginning of a broader cultural design shift away from the more functional, hard-edged and streamlined Modernist aesthetic of the early 1960s, and toward an organicness still powerful today.
The exhibition will remain on view through February 2012 at the gallery’s New York space in the West Chelsea arts district of Manhattan.