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"Aluminum by Design: Jewellery to Jets"
2001-08-23 until 2001-11-04
Montreal Museum of Fine Art
Considered to be as precious as gold when it was first
produced in France in the mid-nineteenth century, aluminum has long been part of
our daily lives. Aluminum by Design: Jewellery to Jets, an exhibition that
will be on view at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts features a selection of some 180 artifacts. Organized and
circulated by the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, this groundbreaking
exhibition shows how aluminum and its unique properties have inspired designers
in fields as diverse as sculpture, furniture and home decor, jewellery, architecture,
fashion, the aerospace and robotic industries.
Aluminum's essential qualities of brilliance, strength, lightness, ductility, resistance
to corrosion, and ease of recycling have provided an unparalleled medium for
design and creative engineering. Aluminum by Design features works by
gifted designers like René Lalique, Jean Prouvé, Marcel Breuer, Frank Lloyd
Wright, Russel Wright, Gio Ponti, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Charles Eames,
Eero Saarinen, Philippe Starck and Isamu Noguchi.
Initially rare, expensive and often preferred over traditional precious metals,
aluminum was promoted by Napoleon III, who was presented with a magnificent
table centrepiece made in Paris by Charles Christofle in 1858. The exhibition
showcases jewellery combining aluminum with gold from the same period, as well
as an aluminum, gold, glass and copper perfume bottle and case. In 1893, one of
the greatest British sculptors of the nineteenth century, Sir Alfred Gilbert, created
Eros, the first aluminum public statue, to crown the Shaftesbury Memorial in
London's Piccadilly Circus. The exhibition also presents the sculpture Venus de
Milo, produced at the F. Barbedienne Foundry in 1889.
As technological developments made aluminum more widely available, it came to
symbolize modernity, and its malleability was soon appreciated by practitioners of
the avant-garde. Otto Wagner's 1906 Vienna Postal Savings Bank was the first
building to use aluminum extensively. Marcel Breuer won first prize in a 1933
international competition in Paris for the best seating designed in the metal. Its
use quickly spread to industrial goods like the Hobart meat slicer, also seen in the
exhibition, and the kitchen utensils and coffee pots designed by Lurelle Guild that
were manufactured for a wide consumer audience in the 1930s.
Owing to the metal's strategic importance, aluminum production increased
dramatically during World War II. After the war, aluminum companies hired
designers to create new applications for the metal in order to sustain production.
For example, the exhibition features a rug made of aluminum, jute, wool and
viscose by Marianne Strengell, and two tables by Isamu Noguchi that were
designed specifically to encourage innovative uses of the metal.
Because aluminum can be easily recycled, it plays a significant role in a wide
spectrum of uses - from beverage containers like Coca-Cola cans to automobile
components like the Audi chassis. It has even managed to seduce the fashion
world. A 1969 mini-dress of aluminum and polished silver or the aluminum and
steel Atomium Bruxelles Dress created by haute-couture designer Paco Rabanne
could be accessorized with bags and shoes by Salvatore Ferragamo, and jewellery
by Arline Fisch, Frans van Nieuwenborg or Shiang-shin Yeh. Two Aibo robotic
dogs by Sony Electronics Inc. could complete the fashion statement. Furniture
includes Marc Newson's astonishing aerodynamic Lockheed Lounge (1985) and
a series of chairs by architect/designer Ron Arad that traces a specific design from
its aluminum prototype through the aluminum limited addition to the
mass-produced plastic version.
The exhibition has been seen at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh and
the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution, in New
York. Following its Montreal presentation, it will travel to the Wolfsonian-Florida
International University in Miami, the Cranbrook Art Museum in Detroit, and the
Design Museum in London, England.
Marc Newson (born in 1963)
Lockheed Lounge, 1985
Riveted sheet aluminium over fiberglass, rubber
63.5 X 88.9 X 152.4 cm
Pittsburg, Carnegie Museum of Art
Women's Committee Acquisition Fund