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MFAH Exhibits Recent Accessions in Design

Slice Armchair by Mathias Bengtsson, 2006

Slice Armchair by Mathias Bengtsson, 2006

From Press Release

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s curator of modern and contemporary decorative arts and design, Cindi Strauss, has hand-picked a selection of the most significant decorative art objects to have entered the collection in the past five years for Recent Accessions in Design. Showcasing work by some of the most renowned designers of the 20th and 21st centuries, the exhibition introduces visitors to about 40 of the most recent design objects acquired by the museum. Exhibiting a range of scale, material, and function, all the works demonstrate aesthetic significance and technical innovation. The exhibition is on view in the Caroline Wiess Law Building from August 16, 2009 through February 21, 2010. Nearly 20 contemporary sculptural and turned wood objects given to the MFAH by John and Robyn Horn will also be on view at the gallery’s entrance.

“Recent Accessions in Design celebrates innovative, international designers, from emerging talent to established masters,” states Strauss. “The show features iconic rarities to cutting-edge objects and reflects the direction in which the collection is developing.”

The goal of the modern and contemporary decorative arts department is to represent the significant ideas in 20th and 21st century design. International in scope, the department collects objects dating from 1900 to the present in a variety of media. Particular emphasis is placed on objects designed by architects as well as works that redefine or challenge traditional ideals. The museum has also made a commitment to key designers whose work is collected in depth across the range of their careers.

Recent Accessions in Design includes new acquisitions dating from the 1940s to today by international designers such as Gae Aulenti, Shiro Kuramata, Gerrit Rietveld, Carlo Scarpa, and Ettore Sotsass. Architect-designer Sottsass’ incredibly rare Flying Carpet Armchair (1972) is a design inspired by both the Pop Art movement and the artist’s travels to India, and is the earliest Sottsass work to enter the MFAH’s collection. The acquisition of this iconic work provides the museum with an example of the designer’s early work that precedes his famous Studio Alchymia and Memphis designs.

Young, emerging artists who are taking advantage of new technologies are also well-represented in the exhibition. Joris Laarman’s Bone Rocker is a black marble resin rocking chair, designed with a computer program that imitates the way the human skeleton builds bones. Mathias Bengtsson is another young designer at the forefront of combining new technology with elements of craft. His “Slice” Armchair was made with laser-cutting technology, creating a voluptuous plywood chair that looks thoroughly organic. Digitally animated wallpaper by Christopher Pearson will also be on display. The artist re-interpreted William Morris’ wallpaper design of 1887 by adding moving sea creatures, flora, and fauna to a 25-minute animated loop. Also of note is Wieki Somers’ High Tea Pot, a translucent bone and porcelain structure in the shape of a pig’s skull. The tea can be kept warm by an accompanying jacket of water-rat fur that can be wrapped around the pot.

Hours and Admission

The Caroline Wiess Law Building is at 1001 Bissonnet Street. Hours are Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Thursday 10 a.m.–9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m.–7 p.m.; and Sunday, 12:15–7 p.m. The museum is closed on Monday, except for holidays. Admission to this exhibition is included with general admission to the museum. General admission is $7 for adults and $3.50 for children 6-18, students, and senior adults (65+); admission is free for children 5 and under. Admission is free on Thursday, courtesy of Shell Oil Company Foundation. Admission is free on Saturday and Sunday for children 18 and under with a Houston Public Library Power Card or any other library card.

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