Designed for Delight: Alternative Aspects of Twentieth-century Decorative Arts

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9782080135957: Designed for Delight: Alternative Aspects of Twentieth-century Decorative Arts
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By the early part of this century, the principles of Modernism in design-- simplicity of form, little or no ornament, truth to materials-- were established as avant-garde ideas, and functionalism soon became an overriding concern. However, looking back from our fin-de-siècle perspective, it is evident that the history of modern design is far more varied and complex. This lavishly illustrated and beautifully designed book demonstrates the surprising ways in which Modernist designers also took alternative routes to create art beyond function.

From Art Nouveau and the Wiener Werkstätte to Pop and Post-modernism, Designed for Delight presents over 200 works from the collection of the Montreal Museum of Decorative Arts, in all media, focusing in particular on four aspects of the decorative arts through objects and essays. "Body Language" explores the ways in which the human body and its various parts have been used as elements of design. In "Inversion and Transformation" we see how materials have been unexpectedly inverted. Contrary to the accepted notion that Modern design should be devoid of ornament, the richly decorated surfaces and textures of objects in "Is Ornament a Crime?" argue for the everlasting appeal of floral and geometric patterns. Fantasy and illusion have been equally compelling, and "Flights of Fantasy" demonstrates how twentieth-century artists and designers incorporated the fantastic and even the irrational into their work.

Alongside scholarly inquiries on these themes, four essays reflect on the broader context of architecture, painting, sculpture, and design. The objects are accompanied by the words of the artists themselves, or of commentators from throughout the century-- including many quotations unique to this book-- Lalique and Hoffmann, Dalí and Ruhlmann, Pucci and Nikki de Saint-Phalle, Pesce, Sottsass, and Starck. Their words provide a fascinating glimpse into the processes of creation and perception. Published to coincide with a landmark traveling exhibition organized by the Montreal Museum of Decorative Arts, Designed for Delight is certain to become a standard reference for decorative arts of the twentieth century.

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This book is aptly titled, for both the objects contained in it--things such as Dali's lip-shaped sofa and Gaultier's torso-shaped perfume vials--and the book itself will delight the reader. The furniture, vases, fabrics, and other objects are organized according to four classifications: "Body Language," "Inversion and Transformation," "Is Ornament a Crime?," and "Flights of Fancy." All are reproduced in full color and accentuated by essays elaborating the ideas. Quotes by or about the artists, placed alongside each photograph, complement the pieces. In one, Frank Gehry reveals the genesis of his paper furniture: "I got interested in paper furniture when I was designing for department stores and had to invent display furniture that nobody really had to sit on.... I would draw and my assistants and I would then make them. I never expected to sell these things until someone from Bloomingdale's saw them and suggested I develop them." This fabulous view of 20th-century decorative arts includes both well-known and obscure items, making for hours of reading and viewing pleasure.

About the Author:

Steven C. Dubin is Associate Professor of Sociology, SUNY, Purchase, NY; Martin Eidelberg is Professor of Art History at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey; Martin Filler is Contributing Editor, Features, for House Beautiful; Lenore Newman is a decorative arts consultant specializing in twentieth-century design; Witold Rybczynski is Professor of Urbanism at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; Jan L. Spak is an architectural and decorative art historian specializing in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century design.

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