GRAY MATTERS

While it's sad to think that designer, artist and self-taught architect, Eileen Gray remained largely undervalued and unrecognised for much of her life, she has deservedly received admiration and acknowledgement in a 3-month retrospective exhibition of her work at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.  During it's run, it is expected to be seen by over 500,000 visitors.

Eileen Gray

Eileen Gray, born into an aristocratic Anglo-Irish family, became a leading early exponent of Modernism in the early 20th century, alongside Mies Van der Rohe and Le Corbusier.  Her dazzling creative output, from lacquerwork to rugs to furniture and architecture is jaw-dropping. There was a resurgence of interest in her work when, in 1972, her lacquered screen 'Le Destin' sold for US$36,000 to Yves Saint Laurent and in 2009, her Dragon's Chair was sold at auction from the private estate of St. Laurent for US$28,000,000. What fascinates me most is how fresh and cutting-edge her designs appear, even now in the 21st century.

My favourite piece?  It would have to be her iconic side table design, E1027, a heightadjustable glass and chrome round table designed 84 years ago in 1929 - a genius piece of furniture that is familiar to most people, even if they have never heard of Eileen Gray. 1n 1978, the table was chosen to form part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Eileen Gray Adjustable Table E1027

A close second favourite piece of mine is her Bibendum Chair, named after the famous Michelin Tyre man. The chair echoes the company's tyre shapes with its two semi-circular tubes forming a backrest - an example of her unconventional use of form.

Eileen Gray Bibendum chair

I often wonder if Eileen Gray was alive and a young designer today, what methods and materials would she use, who would she champion in the design world, what one iconic piece would she be associated with..?

BlogCarol-Anne Leyden