April 16, 2013

A friend of mine is in Paris at the moment, and just sent me the catalogue to the Eileen Gray show at the Centre Pompidou. Écoutez et répétez: ‘Eileen Gray/Centre Pompidou’ — it’s enough to send me running off to Mascot airport, Louis Vuitton duffel bag in tow. But I’ve got a lot going on in Sydney right now, so I’ll have to live this one vicariously…

In a lot of ways, Eileen Gray was the torch-bearer for women working in design and architecture today. Fully two decades before Charlotte Perriand signed up with Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret, Gray had started to map out her path, establishing herself as a force to be reckoned with. An acolyte of the Arts & Crafts movement, her initial impact came via her luscious lacquered finished of very minimal low tables and sideboards. Totes Arts décoratifs. But then she added an extra edge, creating some of the most refined designs of our times: the iconic Bibendum armchair; that spectacularly simple tubular metal side table; the rugged, low-slung Transat chair… The lineup at the Pompidou Centre looks pretty terrific, though I have to say: it could have been even more magnificent had they managed to include Gray’s totally eccentric ‘dragon chair’, acquired by Saint Laurent in the 70s and sold for some $20mil in 2009, at the auctioning off of his estate.

Author: Nick tobias