Alexander Girard (1907–1993) was one of the most influential textile artists and interior designers of the twentieth century, with his worlds of colourful opulence in which everything—even the smallest detail—was precisely and artfully coordinated. He designed furniture, small objects and fabrics, worked for companies like Herman Miller and Braniff International Airways and collaborated with such designers as Charles & Ray Eames and George Nelson. He created stunning interiors for restaurants, private clients and corporations, as well as more than 300 textile designs. Examples include the Irwin Miller House in Columbus, Indiana ), his own home in Santa Fe and the legendary restaurants La Fonda Del Sol and L’Etoile in New York.
Even if his work is less well known than that of prominent contemporaries such as Charles & Ray Eames, his oeuvre has experienced a revival in more recent years. Girard’s often underestimated significance lies in the fact that he restored colour, decoration and opulent interiors, precissely what classical modernism had rejected in design. With an ingenious ease, he combined ostensible antagonists: craftsmanship and industry, pop culture and high culture, and playful décor with masterful reduction. The artist anticipated many developments of the following decades, such as the colourful language of postmodernism and the debates on post-industrial design and the globalisation of aesthetic.
The creativity of Girard could be seen until 22 January at the Vitra Design Museum, in an exhibition that brought together furniture, textiles and sculptures as well as numerous sketches, drawings and collages never shown before.
In addition to his own designs, the retrospective presented one of the main sources of inspiration of his creative universe: a selection of 300 objects from his extensive collection of folk art objects, which he accumulated on his travels through Mexico, India, Egypt and other countries. Many of these objects were used by Girard in his interior design projects or in spectacular exhibitions, such as the “Textiles and Ornamental Arts of India” show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1954) or the “Magic of a People” pavilion he designed for the HemisFair World’s Fair (1968) in San Antonio, Texas, for which he meticulously displayed more than 10,000 of his collected artefacts.
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