Thursday, November 20, 2008

British Architect and Designer Ron Arad: No Discipline Opens at Pompidou Centre in Paris

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Ron Arad, Acrylic Oh Void 2, armchair 2004. 66 x 115 x 58 cm. Editor The Gallery Mourmans, Maastricht. Private collection © The Gallery Mourmans. Photo Erik & Petra Hesmerg.

PARIS.- The Centre Pompidou is to devote an exhibition to the work of British architect and designer Ron Arad, his first major one-person show in France. From its beginnings, the Centre has played a key role in presenting design and designers to the wider public, with exhibitions such as Design Français 1960-1990 (1988), Manifeste: 30 ans de création en perspective, 1960-1990 (1992) and D. Day, le design aujourd’hui (2005), as well as monographic exhibitions devoted to such figures as Carlo Mollino (1989), Ettore Sottsass (1994), Gaetano Pesce (1996), Philippe Starck (2003), Charlotte Perriand (2005), and now Ron Arad.

Born in Tel Aviv and trained at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem, Arad moved to London in 1973 to study at the Architectural Association. Having settled in the British capital, he has since produced a diverse array of objects, sinusoidal, elliptical or ovoid in form, from one-offs to limited editions to mass-produced pieces.

Mention of Ron Arad’s name immediately brings to mind such pieces as the Bookworm bookshelf (1993) and the Tom Vac chair (1997) but, his ground breaking work, has taken him beyond conventional categorization: a creator who recognizes no a priori boundaries, who in his practice moves freely between architecture, design and the visual arts.

In 1987, he was invited by the Centre Pompidou to participate in the exhibition Nouvelles tendances: Les avant-gardes de la fin du XXème siècle, and he has several pieces in the design collection of the Musée national d’art moderne/Centre de création industrielle. This retrospective will present emblematic examples of Arad’s work as a designer, from prototypes to mass-produced objects, as well as a number of architectural projects, together with audio-visual documentation.

Ron Arad’s design for the exhibition in the Galerie Sud draws the visitor into a strikingly distinctive world. The first space offers an identical reproduction of his foyer and staircase for the Tel Aviv Opera House (1994), onto whose elliptical form is projected a film on the Holon Design Museum currently under construction, while plasma screens on the wall present some two dozen of his architectural projects.

Beyond this reconstruction, a luminous divide revealing the mysterious silhouettes of objects beyond delimits an intermediate space in which are displayed one-off pieces, prototypes and limited editions. This long ribbon also encloses another space, visible from the street, where visitors and passers-by will find a scaffolding composed of a multitude tubes of varying diameters housing examples of mass-produced pieces, while others contain small screens showing videos. On the floor are more pieces, some of them mobile, equally visible from the street.

The work exhibited illustrates as well as Arad’s long-standing interest in technology, the way in which innovative research, materials engineering and the use of high-precision machinery are combined in unique experiments: sculptural chairs in carbon fibre or silicone, vases produced by stereolithography, lamps that receive and display text messages. And in his work for manufacturers, these technical and formal innovations find expression in the design of everyday objects. Arad’s architecture is equally idiosyncratic, identifiable by its deployment of a formal vocabulary that suggests the application of design to space, as in his Y’s Store for designer Yohji Yamamoto in Tokyo, the Duomo hotel in Italy, and the Holon Design Museum in Israel.

After the Centre Pompidou, the Ron Arad exhibition will be shown at MOMA, New York, from July 28 to October 19 2009, and then at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, in the Spring of 2010.

Born in Tel Aviv in 1951, Ron Arad studied at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem from 1971 to 1973. After graduating in 1973, he settled in London and continued his training at the Architectural Association. His teachers included Peter Cook and Bernard Tschumi, and he became a close associate of Nigel Coates, Peter Wilson and Zaha Hadid. He qualified as an architect in 1979, and worked in an architectural practice before setting up his own design agency, One Off Ltd, with Dennis Groves and Caroline Thorman, in 1981. One Off functioned as a showroom and design workshop, and Arad soon began designing and distributing his own unique pieces or limited editions – surprising objects using unusual, salvaged or recycled materials. These included his remote-controlled Aerial lamp (1981) made from a car radio aerial, the Rover Chair, made from a salvaged car seat (1981) and the Concrete Stereo hi-fi unit, set into a block of raw concrete (1983). He explored materials such as tempered steel and soldered steel sheets, used for the Well Tempered Chair (1986), the Tinker Chair (1988), and the 'Big Easy Volumes' series in polished stainless steel (1988). In 1989, he founded Ron Arad Associates Ltd in London, with Alison Brooks and Caroline Thorman, followed by Architecture and Design (incorporating One Off Ltd) in 1993 and, in 1994, the Ron Arad Studio at Como in Italy, for the production of limited series of hand-crafted pieces, previously made in the London workshops.

Technology has always taken centre stage in Ron Arad's work; his unique, experimental pieces exploit the essential characteristics of their raw materials, draw on the very latest applied research, and are made using high-precision machine tools. They include sculptural seats in carbon fibre or silicon (such as the Oh Voïd chairs of 2002), vases modelled using stereolithography (the Perfect Vase of 2001 or ceiling lamps such as Lolita (2004) which can receive (and project) text messages from a mobile 'phone.

Ron Arad has collaborated with Galerie Mourmans since 1998, creating collections of furniture including the BOOP (Blown Out Of Proportion) series. The gallery continues to support his experimental work, and produces limited editions of his most recent creations: the Blo-Glo series, presented at Dolce & Gabbana in Milan in 2006, the Bodyguards collection at the Milan Furniture Fair in 2007.

Ron Arad has also made his technical and formal innovations available to numerous, large-scale international manufacturers, creating mass-produced everyday objects based on his original, one-off works: Alessi, Cappellini, iGuzzini, Driade, Kartell, Magis, Moroso or Vitra. Some objects have become design icons, such as the Bookworm shelves (1993), the FPE (Fantastic Plastic Elastic) chairs of 1997, Tom Vac (1999), the Victoria and Little Albert seating collection (2002) or the Ripple Chair (2005), and the Pizzakobra lamp (2007).

At the same time, Ron Arad has continued working as an architect and interior designer, designing his own London office before embarking on a host of projects including the foyer and auditorium of the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Centre in Israel (1994-1998), the Y’store for Yohji Yamamoto in Tokyo (2003), the Design Museum in Holon, Israel (work began in 2004) or the Notify corporate showroom in Milan (2008).

Ron Arad also creates urban sculpture: Domus Totem in Milan (1997); Big Blue at Canary Wharf in London (1999); Evergreen at Roppongi Hills, Tokyo (2003).

Arad teaches in the department of Design Products at the Royal College of Art [LR: pas Arts] in London. He organises workshops in Germany, France and Italy, and lectures at design schools all over the world.

His work features regularly at leading design fairs, helping to establish his reputation on the international scene. A major retrospective of his work was held in Barcelona in 2003, and he was the subject of a solo exhibition at Barry Friedman Ltd in New York, in 2005.

He has won numerous awards: Designer of the Year at the Salon du Meuble, Paris (1994); co-winner of the Perrier Jouët Selfridges Design Prize, London (2001); the Barcelona Primavera International Award for Design (2001); the Oribe Art & Design Award Japan (2001); Architektur & Wohnen Designer of the Year (2004); FX Magazine Designer of the Year Award, 2005.

Ron Arad's work features in numerous public museum collections: the Centre Pompidou, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, the Fonds National d’Art Contemporain (Paris); the Vitra Design Museum (Weil-am-Rhein); the Design Museum, Nuremberg; the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art, Amsterdam; the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Powerhouse, Sydney; the Design Museum, Osaka.

He lives and works in London.

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