November 22, 2014 - Philadelphia Museum of Art - Vitra—Design, Architecture, Communication
November 22, 2014

Vitra—Design, Architecture, Communication

Left: George Nelson, Ball Clock, 1948/60. Metal, brass, diameter: 13 inches. Photo: Andreas Sütterlin. © Vitra. Center: Frank O.
Gehry, Wiggle Side Chair, 1972/2005. Corrugated cardboard, hardboard, 34 1/4 × 14 1/4 × 24 inches, height of seat: 17 inches.
Photo: Hans Hansen. © Vitra. Right: Charles Eames, Eames Elephant, 1945. Plywood, 16 1/2 × 16 1/4 × 31 inches. Photo:
Marc Eggimann. © Vitra.

Vitra—Design, Architecture, Communication: A European Project with American Roots
November 22, 2014–April 26, 2015

Philadelphia Museum of Art
Perelman Building
2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia, PA 19130
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 10am–5pm
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This fall, the Philadelphia Museum of Art will present Vitra—Design, Architecture, Communication, an exhibition exploring the story of Vitra, the family-owned Swiss furniture company, from its American roots and distinguished design collaborations to its architectural commissions and educational outreach. The exhibition of some 120 works will include furniture, design objects, models, publications, and videos divided into the following sections:American Roots; Communications; Architecture/Site; Products/Designers; and Vitra Design Museum, Collections/Archives.

In conjunction with the exhibition, Rolf Fehlbaum, Vitra’s Chairman Emeritus, will be honored by Collab, the group for modern and contemporary design at the Museum. He will receive Collab’s 2014 Design Excellence Award on November 21. Fehlbaum founded the Vitra Design Museum with his collection of modern and contemporary furniture and then expanded its activities to include traveling exhibitions, publications, and workshops. He created Vitra Edition, a program of experimental pieces such as Rod Arad’s looping steel Well-Tempered Chair (1986) and Philippe Starck’s surreal W.W. Stool (1990), which will be included in the exhibition, and commissioned internationally renowned architects to design buildings for the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein.

The exhibition will include contemporary products in addition to historic objects and archival material from the Vitra Design Museum that represent the firm’s American roots. These include a plywood toy elephant by Charles and Ray Eames, a group of Alexander Girard’s Wooden Dolls, and George Nelson’s 1948 furniture catalogue for Herman Miller.

Vitra’s founders, Willi and Erika Fehlbaum, began licensing furniture from Herman Miller for the European market with designs by Charles and Ray Eames, George Nelson, and Alexander Girard in 1957. The Eameses view of design as the “recognition of need,” their warning against “stylistic excess,” and their understanding of the connections between people, ideas, and objects have served as Vitra’s guiding principles ever since. The company continues to manufacture such classics, as well as new products by leading international designers, from Verner Panton and Antonio Citterio to Jasper Morrison and Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, which will be on view.

Rolf Fehlbaum joined the family business in 1977. He launched Vitra’s signature architecture program by commissioning British architect Nicholas Grimshaw to design new factory buildings when a substantial part of Vitra’s manufacturing facilities were destroyed in a fire in 1981. Other commissions followed, among them the Vitra Design Museum by Frank Gehry, a fire station by Zaha Hadid, a conference pavilion by Tadao Ando, VitraHaus by Herzog & de Meuron, a factory building by SANAA, and Balancing Tools, a large-scale outdoor sculpture by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen.

About Rolf Fehlbaum
Rolf Fehlbaum (born April 6, 1941, Basel) studied social sciences at the University of Freiburg in Breisgau and later in Munich, Bern, and Basel, completing his doctoral thesis on Utopian Socialism in 1967. Upon completion of his studies, he worked as an editor and producer for the Bavaria Film Company and led education and training at the Bavarian Chamber of Architects, before joining Vitra in 1977. Fehlbaum has received numerous honors and awards, including an honorary doctorate from the Royal College of Art in London (2010), an honorary Fellowship of the Royal Institute of British Architects (2010), and a placement on the Pritzker Architecture Prize jury from 2004 to 2010.

Kathryn Bloom Hiesinger, The J. Mahlon Buck, Jr. Family Senior Curator of European Decorative Arts after 1700

About Collab
Collab is a volunteer group that supports the Museum’s modern and contemporary design collection and programs. Now among the most important in the country, the collection of more than 2,000 objects ranges from appliances and furniture to ceramics, glass, posters, wallpapers, and lighting. Each year, Collab honors a design professional who has made significant contributions to the field. In addition, the group offers its annual Student Design Competition to challenge college students to be inspired by design. This year’s competition will culminate in a display of selected student works in the Great Stair Hall Balcony of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s main building from November 18 to 21, 2014.

The exhibition is made possible by Lisa S. Roberts and David W. Seltzer. Additional support is provided by Collab—a group that supports the Museum’s modern and contemporary design collection and programs—as well as Pro Helvetia, the Swiss Arts Council, and PHILLIPS. The exhibition is presented in collaboration with Vitra. The Philadelphia Museum of Art gratefully acknowledges the Dolfinger-McMahon Foundation and Poor Richard’s Charitable Trust for support of the Collab Student Design Competition. The Collab 2014 Design Excellence Award Gala is generously sponsored by Morgan Stanley.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is one of the largest museums in the United States, with a collection of more than 227,000 works of art. The Museum’s many galleries present painting, sculpture, works on paper, photography, decorative arts, textiles, and architectural settings from Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the United States. Its facilities include a landmark main building; the Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building; the Rodin Museum; and two historic houses in Fairmount Park, Mount Pleasant and Cedar Grove. The Museum offers a wide variety of activities for public audiences, including special exhibitions, programs for children and families, lectures, concerts, and films.

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