Today marks the opening of Essential Eames: A Herman Miller Exhibition at the ArtScience Museum. Well, it’s rare to see design exhibitions in Singapore, not to mention one that is dedicated to any designer. But Charles & Ray Eames are not the everyday designers that you see and hear. Their names and designs are renowned throughout the world. They are one of the Masters of Modernism, whose designs had demonstrated how Art and Science not only can co-exist, but complement each other. This is what the curator of this exhibition, Eames Demetrios, grandson of Charles & Ray Eames highlighted in his talk today, an expression which I fully agree. Unlike most designers, Charles & Ray Eames not only designed a product, in the process, they had also designed the manufacturing processes and pioneered several technologies such as their famed molded plywood, a true marriage of Art of Design and the Science of Technology.
The exhibition is based on the book “An Eames Primer” by Eames Demetrios. This exhibition is co-presented by ArtScience Museum and Herman Miller in collaboration with the Eames Office. The Essential Eames exhibition will showcase more than 100 pieces of rare and never-before-seen works and images from the Eames family collection, the Eames Office, and Herman Miller archives.
I remembered how the Eameses’ designs brought out my interests in design and furniture. Voted by Time magazine as “The Best Design of the 20th Century”, the Eames Lounge Chair Wood is my all-time favourite chair since 6 years ago when I first go crazy over chairs. Time Magazine had called the design “something elegant, light and comfortable. Much copied but never bettered.” Well, this much copied chair is the most comfortable non-upholstered chair I had ever sat on. It’s amazing how a solid form could contour so well to the human form and provide such comfort even over long periods of time. Upon seeing about this exhibition from Herman Miller’s Facebook page, I couldn’t help, but gone for the exhibition on the very first day of opening. My first stop, however, is not the exhibition, but the talk titled “Surrendering to the Journey: the Many Designs of Charles and Ray Eames” by the curator of this exhibition. I went up to Level 4 and sat down, looking at the man who is preparing his presentation slides for the talk. The man is Eames Demetrios, grandson of Charles & Ray Eames. This makes the talk much more interesting as we are hearing from the family of the legendary husband & wife team. Someone with insight to their works.
Charles & Ray Eameses’ designs are seen almost everywhere. You will see knock-offs being used in restaurants aplenty. Hence, for the uninitiated, you will be thinking that their designs are no big deal since most of the time, you are seeing worn and dirty pieces of knock-offs in several places when you dine in Singapore. Oh, you will even catch several of their designs in retailers selling replica pieces of their great design. But it is their iconic status that led to the widespread copying. As the saying goes, “imitation is the greatest for of flattery”. Contrary to contemporary designs, the Eameses did not do design by form. They did not care how to MAKE people sit in their chairs. What they did was to care about how people WOULD sit in their chairs. Simply said, Charles & Ray Eames make furnitures to conform to people’s usage, not the other way round. This is the key take-away I had from the talk. After the talk, I realised that Charles & Ray Eames were the true pioneers of Anti-Designs, a design movement that was started in 1966 that emphasizes on function and relevance, not form.
Enter the exhibition, I was immediately greeted the much imitated Eames Lounge Chair. Having sat in both the original by Herman Miller and the replicas available at 1/6th of the price, I know how different they are, no matter how alike they look. Sit in the real McCoy and the soft cushions will embrace you in the most comfortable way with the arm rests gently supporting your arms for that nice little read. Throw in the ottoman and you can easily fall asleep while holding that book effortlessly in your hands. My wife sank herself into the soft embrace of the Eames Lounge Chair displayed for the pleasures of the visitors and fell instantly for it. I reminded her of the Giorgetti Progetti Wing Chair that she once commented to be beautifully crafted and peerless. I was a little surprised when she told me that the Giorgetti wasn’t as comfortable as the Modern Classic Eames Lounge Chair. The exhibition of more than 100 works is wonderful and is very much worth the trip. So, be sure to catch it before the exhibition ends next year in January 2014. I shall leave you with the pictures that I had taken in the exhibition. I’m sure that it will be an eye candy for design buffs like me. 🙂
Herman Miller also brought us George Nelson’s iconic designs. The Coconut Chair is one of them.
The Marshmallow Sofa – A strong presentation of form.
After the exhibition, my wife mentioned that it is sad to see replicas so widely available and it seems that the designers never got their works recognised. That stings me like a bee as I was having thoughts of getting a replica Eames Lounge Chair that my wife had grown fond of after experiencing it in this exhibition. What my wife said was so true. Replicas not only rob the revenues off the designers, more importantly, it is robbing their ideas and originality. On one hand, I was having a budget limit to furnish our next home, on the other hand, I would love to have the original sitting in my bedroom to lounge in. I guess, I just have to work that budget carefully to ensure that my heart give the full recognition of the design that I love.
You can read about the Eameses’ Masterful creation, the Eames Lounge Chair in my blog entry here. 🙂 The Exhibition details are as follow. Note that the Curator will only be in Singapore on the opening weekend. i.e., 29th and 30th June 2013. Don’t miss this rare opportunity!
Exhibition: Essential Eames: A Herman Miller Exhibition
Exhibition Date: 29th Jun 2013 – 5th Jan 2014
Opening Hours: 10:00AM to 10:00PM (Last admission at 9.00PM)
Venue: Art Science Museum at Marina Bay Sands