Curated in collaboration with Laffanour Galerie Downtown in Paris, a new exhibition at the Venus Over Manhattan art gallery in New York shines a spotlight on the late French designer Charlotte Perriand's life and work. Featuring 50 items Perriand designed over the span of nearly eight decades of her career, this exhibition offers an "incredible insight into the holistic approach of Perriand's design philosophy," according to Venus Over Manhattan. Titled "Charlotte Perriand," the exhibition is believed to be the largest of its kind ever opened in New York, according to the art gallery.
Although considered one of the most influential designers of the 20th century, Perriand is not as celebrated as her contemporaries, including modernist legends like Walter Gropious, Otto Bartning, Marcel Breuer, and Le Corbusier. In 1927, 24-year-old Perriand—who was by then a graduate of the École de l'Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs in Paris and a talented furniture designer—applied to a job at Le Corbusier's studio and was instantly rejected by him with the infamous rebuff: "We don't embroider cushions here."
A few months later, Perriand invited the architect to the annual art exhibition Salon d’Automne which featured her Bar sous le toit (1927), a recreation of an aluminum-and-glass bar unit she had designed and made for her own apartment. Impressed by that exhibition, Le Corbusier hired her to lead interior design and furniture design for his office, where her work included projects such as the interiors for the iconic Unité d’Habitation housing development in Marseille, France. This marked the beginning of a decade-long collaboration between Perriand and Le Corbusier that created the iconic pieces such as the 1928 B306/LC4 Chaise Longue (not featured in this exhibition) and the Fauteuil Chrome Tubulaire (made in collaboration with Le Corbusier's cousin Swiss architect Pierre Jeanneret).
While working at Le Corbusier's studio, Perriand designed a wide range of furniture and architectural elements for mass production using materials such as tubular steel and leather which "were then rarely used in domestic settings," according to Venus Over Manhattan. "She produced objects that took note of the human body and its standard movements, making chairs and tables that emphasized their function and simplicity, while maintaining striking sculptural silhouettes," according to the gallery's press release.
In 1940, at the invitation of the Japanese government, Perriand moved to Japan to serve as a cultural adviser for industrial arts. This trip had a "profound impact on [Perriand's] design philosophy," according to the art gallery. She began to explore natural forms and started to work with materials other than steel and leather for which she was known for. It was during this time that Perriand revisited some of her earlier works, specifically those made in collaboration with Le Corbusier. One of these recreations, the Passe-Plats (1959), a serving bar made of a mahogany countertop with bamboo detailing, is on display at this exhibition.
Also on display is the Table à six pans (1949), a rare six-sided coffee table designed based on a wooden table Perriand made for her Montparnasse apartment in 1938. Featuring an organic, unorthodox geometry, this piece "signaled a shift in Perriand’s career: she started crafting wooden tables whose silhouettes delineated unexpected shapes, and she began working in earnest with furniture that she termed 'en forme.' " according to the same release.
Cuisine-bar Marseille (1952), a kitchen she designed for the Unité d’Habitation, is another significant piece displayed at this exhibition. Designed to be located at the center of the living space, the kitchen's design emphasized on transparency, integration, and openness, concepts that are very much familiar today.
Other objects on display include the Paire de fauteuils paillés (1949), the Banquette ‘traineau’ Candilis (1951), the Chaise Ombre (1954), the Banquette Tokyo (1955), the Prototypes Lumières (1963), the Bibliothèque et Console (1966), the Banquette Ambassade du Japon (1966), and the Console murale (1968).
Charlotte Perriand will be on view until Jan. 12, 2019, at the Venus Over Manhattan in New York.