Monday, May 31, 2010


Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960 – 1988) was an American artist and the first African-American painter to become an international art star. He gained popularity first as a graffiti artist in New York City, and then as a successful 1980s-era Neo-expressionist artist. Basquiat’s paintings continue to influence modern-day artists and sell for premium prices.
Born in Brooklyn, New York … his mother of Puerto Rican descent / his father of Haitian origin, Basquiat was fluent in French, Spanish and English from an early age. He read in these languages, including Symbolist poetry, mythology, and history. At an early age, Basquiat displayed an aptitude for art and was encouraged by his mother to draw, paint and to participate in other art-related activities. In the late 70s Basquiat and friend Al Diaz started spray-painting graffiti art on buildings in lower Manhattan, adding the infamous signature of”SAMO” (i.e., “same old shit”). The graphics were pithy messages such as “Plush safe he think … SAMO” and “SAMO as an escape clause”. In December 1978, the Village Voice published an article about the writings. The SAMO project ended with the epitaph “SAMO IS DEAD” written on the walls of SoHo buildings.
By 1980s Basquiat was showing regularly, and alongside Julian Schnabel, David Salle, Francesco Clemente and Enzo Cucchi, became part of what was called the Neo-expressionist movement. He started dating an aspiring and then-unknown performer named Madonna in the fall of 1982. That same year, Basquiat met Andy Warhol, with whom he collaborated extensively in 1984-6, forging a close, if strained, friendship. He was also briefly involved with artist David Bowes.
Basquiat’s career as an exhibiting artist is known for his three broad, though overlapping styles:
In the earliest period, from 1980 to late 1982, Basquiat used painterly gestures on canvas, often depicting skeletal figures and mask-like faces that expressed his obsession with mortality. Other frequently depicted imagery such as automobiles, buildings, police, children’s sidewalk games, and graffiti came from his experience painting on the city streets. Many critics say Basquiat created most of his best work around 1982.
The middle period from late 1982 to 1985 featured multi-panel paintings and individual canvases with exposed stretcher bars, the surface dense with writing, collage and seemingly unrelated imagery. These works reveal a strong interest in Basquiat’s black identity and his identification with historical and contemporary black figures and events. Some of these works achieve a great physicality, and his early interest in Rauschenberg again becomes apparent; “Grillo” (1984) is a good example. 1984-85 was also the main period of the flatter Basquiat–Warhol collaborations. The collaborative paintings received a poor critical reception but are iconographically complex and the process of painting together influenced each other’s later work.
The final period, from about 1986 to Basquiat’s death in 1988, displays a new type of figurative depiction, often on a plain painted background. It may be influenced both by Warhol and by Basquiat’s increasing drug use; “Riding with Death” (1988) is a good example of this style. Some symbols and content from new sources appear in this period, but he also re-used many phrases and motifs from his earlier work, in a starker setting.
During the 80s, many of Basquiat’s friends were concerned about his excessive drug use and increasingly erratic behavior, including signs of paranoia. Basquiat had developed very serious cocaine and heroin habit by this point, which started from his early years living among the junkies and street artists in New York’s underground. On February 10, 1985, Basquiat appeared on the cover of The New York Times Magazine in a feature entitled “New Art, New Money: The Marketing of an American Artist”. As Basquiat’s international success heightened, his works were shown in solo exhibitions across Europe and the USA.
Andy Warhol’s death in 1987 was very distressing for Basquiat, and it is speculated by Phoebe Hoban, in her 1998 biography on the artist, that Warhol’s death was a turning point for Basquiat, and that afterwards his drug addiction and depression began to spiral.
The final period, from about 1986 to Basquiat’s death in 1988, displays a new type of figurative depiction, often on a plain painted background. It may be influenced both by Warhol and by Basquiat’s increasing drug use; “Riding with Death” (1988) is a good example of this style. Some symbols and content from new sources appear in this period, but he also re-used many phrases and motifs from his earlier work, in a starker setting.
The neo-expressionism was Basquiat base painting style, a modern painting and sculpture style that emerged in the late 1970s and dominated the art market until the mid ’80s. Related to American Lyrical Abstraction, New Image Painting and precedents in Pop painting, it developed as a reaction against the conceptual and minimalist art of the 1970s. Neo-expressionists returned to portraying recognizable objects, such as the human body (although sometimes in an abstract manner), in a rough and violently emotional way using vivid colors and banal color harmonies.
Several major museum retrospective exhibitions of Basquiat’s works have been held since his death, in the US and internationally. The first was the “Jean-Michel Basquiat” exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art from October 1992 to February 1993 (this subsequently traveled to museums in Houston, Iowa, and Alabama through 1993 – 1994). The catalog for this exhibition, edited by Richard Marshall and including several essays of differing styles, was a groundbreaking piece of scholarship into his work, and still a major source. Another major and influential exhibition (and catalog) was the “Basquiat” exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum March-June 2005 (which subsequently traveled to Los Angeles and Houston in 2005-2006).
Until 2002, the highest amount paid for an original work of Basquiat’s was $3,302,500 USD set on 12 November 1998 at Christie’s. On 14 May 2002, Basquiat’s Profit I (a large piece measuring 86.5″ / 220 cm by 157.5″ / 400 cm), owned by drummer Lars Ulrich of the heavy metal band Metallica, was put up for auction, again at Christie’s. It sold for $5,509,500 USD . The proceedings of the auction are documented in the film Some Kind of Monster. On November 12, 2008 Ulrich sold a 1982 Basquiat piece, Untitled (Boxer), for $13,522,500 USD (estimate upon request in the region of US$12 million) to a telephone bidder at another Christie’s auction. Previously, on 15 May 2007, an untitled Basquiat work from 1981 had sold at Sotheby’s in New York for US$14.6 million.
Basquiat died accidentally of mixed-drug toxicity (he had been combining cocaine and heroin, often using cocaine to stay up all night painting and then using heroin in the morning to fall asleep) at his 57 Great Jones Street loft/studio in 1988.
In 1996, seven years after his death, a film biography titled Basquiat was released, directed by Julian Schnabel, with actor Jeffrey Wright playing Basquiat.

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images: (click on images to enlarge)
Jean Michel Basquiat (top)
Untitled Boxer, 1982 (2nd)
Untitled Skull, 1981 (3rd)
Cabeza, 1981 (4th)
Jean Michel Basquiat & Andy Warhol photograph by Michael Halsband, 1985 (bottom)

Friday, May 28, 2010


Although best known for his furniture design, Norman Cherner's work included almost all aspects of design: from graphics, glassware and lighting, to his pioneering work in prefabricated housing. Educated in the Bauhaus tradition of interdisciplinary design, he became interested in housing as industrial design. His first houses were built in 1948 for a cooperative housing development in Ramapo, NY. These homes were examples of this total design concept and included affordable furniture designed specifically for these low-cost modular dwellings. One of the first pre-fabricated houses in the United States was Cherner's "Pre-built". It was designed, produced and assembled in 1957 for the U.S. Department of Housing. After being exhibited in Vienna it was shipped back to Connecticut to become his first home and studio outside of New York City. Norman Cherner's furniture designs include the "multi-flex" modular storage system, the "Konwiser Line" of furniture and lighting, and molded plywood seating for Plycraft which he designed in 1958. The molded plywood ‘Cherner Chair' became his most recognized design and is found in furniture collections worldwide. Norman Cherner studied and taught at the Columbia University Fine Arts Department and was an instructor at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. At the same time he also began his own practice, embarking on a lifetime exploration of architecture and furniture design. Norman Cherner's books include: "Fabricating Houses from Component Parts" (1958) "How to Build a House for Less the $6,000" (1960), "Make your own Modern Furniture" (1953) and "How to Build Children's Toys and Furniture" (1954) Benjamin Cherner is the son of the furniture designer Norman Cherner and co-founder of the Cherner Chair Company. He heads the multi-disciplinary design studio Cherner design. His most recent work, a duplex penthouse in New York's East Village has been featured in Dwell magazine and the New York Open House tour. His building designs often incorporate his father's as well as his own furniture designs. Benjamin Cherner is a registered Architect in New York and Connecticut. The Cherner Chair Company is the sole licensor of Norman Cherner and Benjamin Cherner designs. Vintage designs are sold at fine galleries and auction houses.

related links:

images: (click on images to enlarge)
Cherner molded plywood armchair originally produced by Plycraft (top)
Task chair (2nd)
How to build a House for $6000 [Fabricating Houses from Component Parts] New York: Reinhold, 1957 (3rd)
Bar stool (4th)
Konwieser table (bottom)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Welsh industrial designer Ross Lovegrove (1958 - ) is perhaps best known for his work on the Sony Walkman. Lovegrove studied at Manchester Polytechnic (now Manchester Metropolitan University), then went to the Royal College of Art, London where he completed his master of design. His inspiration mainly comes from organic forms and structures. In the early 80’s he worked as a designer for Frog design in West Germany on projects such as walkmans for Sony, computers for Apple, later moved to Paris as a consultant to Knoll International, becoming author of the highly successful Alessandri office system. Invited to join the Atelier de Nîmes along with Jean Nouvel and Philippe Starck, Lovegrove found himself consulting to amongst others Louis Vuitton, Hermes and DuPont. Returning to London Lovegrove set up his own design firm in the early 90s resulting in project work for Airbus industries, Kartell, Ceccotti, Artemide, Cappellini, Idee, Moroso, Luceplan, Driade, Peugeot, Apple, Issey Miyake, Vitra, Olympus Cameras, Yamagiwa corporation, Tag Heuer, Hackman, Alias, Herman Miller, Biomega, Japan airlines and Toyo Ito Architects, Japan as well as KEF and Bernhardt Design (for the Go chair). Winner of numerous international awards his work has been extensively published and exhibited internationally including the museum of Modern Art in New York, the Guggenheim Museum, New York, the Axis Centre, Japan, the Pompidou Centre, Paris, and the Design Museum, London, where in 1993 he curated the first permanent collection. Lovegrove was awarded the World Technology Award by Time magazine and CNN in November 2005. The same year, he was awarded the very prestigious Red Dot Design Award for the products created for Vitra.
Lovegrove has a unique ability to seduce the consumer with appealing fluid shapes, persuasive technology, rich color and beautiful materials. He is inspired by forms of the natural world, the possibilities of new manufacturing techniques and the ability to evoke an emotional response in users. Many of his designs address ecological issues and he has worked on a proposal for a lightweight product architecture called the Solar Seed that is solar powered and inspired by the form of a cactus. Whether creating a luxury leather bag collection or a plastic thermos flask, Lovegrove's humanistic approach and organic sensibility have set a direction for design in the next century.

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images: (click on images to enlarge)
Oasi for Frighetto (top)
Droplet fro Artemide (2nd)
Sprite stacking chair for Knoll (3rd)
System X for Yamigiwa (4th)
Barberella sofa for Moooi (bottom)

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Founded by Italian architect Gio Ponti in 1932, Fontana Arte is a name famous worldwide for their amazing quality range of glass and glass lighting. The company’s works were first distinguished by its realizations of artistic stained-glass windows in churches and cathedrals, among them Duomo of Milan and Cathedral of Brasilia. After having fallen somewhat from grace due to management’s capitalist ideals, a private group bought FA in the late 70s with the re-launch strategy of using the company’s original tenet … big names in the architectural world (including Gae Aulenti, Piero Castiglioni, and Ettore Sottsass), with glass production as the main production element. The company has continued to evolve with new product development and corporate acquisitions while maintaining their core stratagem. Vintage, reissues, and new production of lighting, furniture and objects have kept FA at the pinnacle of their industry.

Happy B-day ZAB!

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images: (click on images to enlarge)
Parola table light by Gae Aulenti & Piero Castiglioni 1980 (top)
Chandelier by David Chipperfield 2004 (2nd)
Crystal dining table by Gio Ponti 1938 (3rd)
No. 2666 vase of clear bonded glass by Ettore Sottsass 1980 (4th)
Flora by Future Systems 2007 (bottom)

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Danish architect, interior and industrial designer Finn Juhl (1912 – 1989) is perhaps most remembered for his furniture design. He was a leading figure in the creation of "Danish design" in the 1940s as well as introducing Danish Modern to America. At the Milan Triennials in the 1950s he was awarded five gold medals and won international acclaim for his furniture. Juhl was not only an excellent furniture designer; he worked within all aspects of the architect’s profession. He gained international renown as an interior designer for his work on the Trusteeship Council Chamber at United Nations headquarters in New York. As an exhibition architect, he was the man behind the major showings of Danish applied art abroad which created the concept "Danish design" and paved the way for the Danish furniture industry’s export triumphs in the 1960s. Juhl designed a house for himself in the 40s, today known simply as Finn Juhl's House, and had it built for money inherited from his father. Over the years it was increasingly furnished with creations of his own design. After divorcing his first wife he thereafter lived in a common-law marriage with Hanne Wilhelm Hansen, a member of the family behind the Edition Wilhelm Hansen music publishing house. She survived him but after her death in May 2003 their home, which she had left unchanged after his death, was made into a historic house museum, today operated as part of the Ordrupgaard Art Museum whose premises it adjoins. Reissues of select designs are produced by One Collection out of Denmark. Vintage finds are sold through fine dealers and auction houses.

related links:

images: (click on images to enlarge)
Baker sofa, reissue by One Collection (top)
Chieftains chair, reissue by One Collection (2nd0
Pelikan chair, reissue by One Collection (3rd)
Tray table, reissue by One Collection (4th)
Rosewood cabinet w/aluminum pulls c1960s (bottom)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Joe Colombo (1930–1971) initially trained as a painter, joined the Nuclear Painting movement before studying architecture at the Milan Politecnico. In the early 1960s he opened his own design office and led progressive Italian design with a series of products in new materials, mostly in plastics. One of his early designs was the chair No.4801 (1963–1967) for Kartell which consisted of three assembled plywood elements. The flowing elements of his chair were a foretaste of his later plastic designs, like the chair universale No.4860 (1965–1967), which was the first seating for adults made of ABS. He received many awards, among them two Compasso d'Oro in 1967 and 1970. His design innovations included one of the first one-piece injection-molded plastic chairs and a complete kitchen on wheels. Colombo worked for Zanotta, Bayer, Bernini, Kartell, B-Line, Stilnovo, O-Luce, Comfort, and Italora among others.. Since the beginning of his career Colombo was most interested in living systems. His early modular container Combi-Centre of 1963 is an example for that. This preference for furniture systems led to designs like Additional Living System (1967–1968) and the chairs Tube (1969–1970) and Multi (1970), which could be assembled in various positions to get a great number of sitting positions. They reflect Colombo's main goal, variability. For his own apartment Colombo designed the units Roto-living and Cabriolet-Bed (both 1969), followed by Total Furnishing Unit, which was presented at the exhibition Italy: The Domestic Landscape at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1972. It presented a complete "living-machine," comprising kitchen, wardrobe, bathroom, and sleeping accommodation, on only 28 square meters. There are reissues of select designs produced today; vintage finds are through fine dealers and auctions houses.

images: (click on images to enlarge)
Birillo stool for Zanotta c1970 (top)
No. 4801 three piece lounge chair for Kartell c1963/64 (2nd)
Coupe wall light for Oluce c1964 (3rd)
Roll armchair & ottoman for B-Line c1962 (4th)
Elda armchair for Comfort c1963 (bottom)

Sunday, May 16, 2010


British sculptor David Nash (1945 - ) has worked worldwide with wood, trees and the natural environment for thirty-five years. His large wood sculptures are sometimes carved or partially burned to produce blackening. His main tools for these sculptures are chainsaw and an axe to carve the wood and a blowtorch to char the wood. Nash also makes land art, of which the best known is Wooden Boulder, begun in 1978. This work involves a journey of large wooden sphere from a Welsh mountainside to the Atlantic Ocean. Wooden Boulder was carved by Nash in the North Wales landscape and left there to weather. Over the years the boulder has slipped, rolled and sometime been pushed through the landscape following the course of streams and rivers until finally it was last seen in the estuary of the river Dwyryd. Since then, it probably washed out to the Irish Sea, the sculptor has no idea of its location, and enjoys the notion that wood which grew out of the land will finally return to it. Nash is also known for sculptures which stay in the landscape. For example, Ash Dome is a ring of ash trees he planted in 1977 and was trained to form a domed shape. It's sited at a secret location somewhere in Snowdonia whenever it's filmed. Crews are taken there by a circuitous route to guard its security.
Since 1967 his sculpture has formed two distinctive groupings; sculptures which connect with the outside, the landscape of making and placements, and works which are presented inside, within and in relation to, architectural environments. The inorganic, non-allusive sculptures that Nash makes using unseasoned wood are based on the universal geometry of the cube, the sphere and the pyramid. He uses the directions of mark-making to his favored forms vertical for the cube, horizontal for the sphere, and diagonal for the pyramid. Although the innate character of the material is taken into account, and allowed to affect the outcome, he never allows it to dictate the sculpture's final identity. Nash once again uses burners at times to char the wood, transforming the material through blackening. Nash’s best work displays a relentless—and occasionally fulfilled—ambition to connect with both the ancient and modern energies of his art form.
David Nash is represented by Annely Juda Fine Art, London; Galerie LeLong in Paris, Zurich and New York; Galerij S65, Aalst, Belgium; Nishimura Gallery, Tokyo and the Haines Gallery, San Francisco.

related links:,117,AR.html

images: (click on images to enlarge)
Through the Trunk up the Branch 1985 (top)
Large Sphere, charred oak 1997 (2nd)
Rising Crack & Warp Column, Tilleul/Lime tree 2003 (3rd)
Panel, charred oak 2001 (4th)
Red and Black triptyque, works on paper 2009 (bottom)

Friday, May 14, 2010


Israeli born designer, technician, artist, photographer and filmmaker Arik Levy (1963 - ) is best known for his furniture design for global companies, installations and limited editions. His work can be seen in prestigious galleries and museums worldwide. Levy currently works out of Paris with his team of designers and artists under L Design producing furniture, lighting, brand identities, packaging, signage, exhibition, and interior design. In spite of his success in industrial furniture design, Levy feels “The world is about people, not table and chairs”. He has also contributed to his artistry to contemporary dance and opera by way of set design. Levy continues to contribute substantially to our interior and exterior milieu, his industrial design, his sculptures – notably his signature rock designs as well as complete environments that can be adapted for multi-use. He believes “life is a system of signs and symbols, where nothing is quite as it seems.

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images: (click on images to enlarge)
Rock shelves for L Design (top)
Wire table for Zanotta (2nd)
Fractal Cloud light for L Design (3rd)
Hertz table for Living Divani (4th)
SH05 Arie Shelving system for e15

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Architect Paolo Piva (1950 - ) initially studied architecture under professor Tobia Scarpa in Venice and during his post-graduate studies at the "Corso superiore di Restauro" in Rome began to make a name for himself in the fields of architecture and industrial design in Italy, Austria and other countries. Since 1970 he has been co-operating with furniture companies Fama, B&B Italia, Giovannetti, Dada, Poliform, Bro's, Tetrad, Wittman, and De Sede He designed the B&B Italian factory at Misinto, the factories of Poliform at Arosio, Inverigo, Lurago, the new office buildings for Alvigin and the factory of Wittmann in Austria. In addition Piva accepted the invitation to take charge of the master class in industrial design at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna as associate professor and later full professor.

Related links:

images: (click on images to enlarge)
George sofa for B&B Italia (top)
Onda bed for Poliform (2nd)
Alta recliner for Wittman (3rd)
Alanda cocktail table with enameled armature for B&B Italia c1970s (4th)
Athos table for B&B Italia (bottom)

Monday, May 10, 2010


Curtis Jeré is a compound nom-de-plume of artists Jerry Fels and Curtis Freiler. Their collaboration started in the late 1950s, and continued through the 1960s and 1970s. Their designs were made and marketed through their company Artisan House and included sculpture, lighting, furniture and household accessories. Their goal was to produce gallery quality art forms for the masses.Their wares were handcrafted of rich metals including copper, bronze, brass, steel, aluminum and chrome. Each piece was hand finished with intriguing surface treatments, paints and patinas. For example, pieces may incorporate ground steel, brushed stainless steel, flame-treated copper or hammered brass -- or combine two or more metals like painted brass and steel with flame treated copper. Due to the abstract nature of most Artisan House pieces, many can be hung upside down or at an angle, as well as used in multiples for a larger configuration or to create a bolder statement. C. Jeré works range from representational to highly abstract. Some of the older techniques, such as enameling and the bronzes, haven't been used in decades. Curtis and Jerry who were brother-in-laws sold their company in 1972, which subsequently was sold and resold over the years. The company still produces metal sculptures including reissues of popular mid century designs. Curtis Jeré vintage designs are sold a fine galleries and auction houses.

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images: (click on images to enlarge)
Crane floor lamp c1970s (top)
Copper petal sunflower wall mirror c1970s (2nd)
Owl on Branch sculpture c1968 (3rd)
Musical Notes & Microphone sculpture c1973 (4th)
Chrome cloverleaf glass top cocktail table c1970s (bottom)