Tuesday, 26 June 2018

David Bowie Inspires Wooyoungmi's New Menswear Collection

David Bowie's coolly elegant suits and androgynous looks inspired Wooyoungmi's new collection with its mix of Eighties sharp tailoring, Seventies colours and rhinestone chokers. Photograph (above) and Cover picture by Elli Ioannou
Designer Katie Chung has launched her second menswear collection in Paris as solo Creative Director of Wooyoungmi, the fashion house founded by her mother Madame Woo. The Spring/Summer 2019 show is inspired by David Bowie with a romantic bohemian ethos that is close to the designer's heart, writes Jeanne-Marie Cilento. Photographs by Elli Ioannou

A handsome, deconstructed suit with
broad lapels and pin stripes depicting
the Wooyoungmi logo 
WOOYOUNGMI'S new collection was presented in the cavernous, utilitarian space of a Paris high school with Seventies, geometrically-tiled floors and a wall of large windows flooding the space with light. Located in the French capital's 15th arrondissement, the Lycée Camille-Sée hosted the lively guests on long, low benches in the high-ceilinged room.

It was the perfect backdrop to Katie Chung's iteration of David Bowie in her new show, worn by androgynous models wearing some of the Seventies favourite hues: yellows and browns in stripes and blocks of colour. Combined with a dash of Eighties panache ~ voluminous trench coats and deconstructed blazers with wide lapels and broad shoulders ~ the collection captured today's androgynous zeitgeist  

The designer says she would like the young generation to appreciate the British singer and fashion iconoclast and see his creative legacy explored and reinterpreted. Chung says she wants to present a new version of Bowie, one that inspired her growing up in Seoul. For this latest collection, she didn't want her designs to replicate Bowie's look but rather his sense of style. Her aim is to create a romantic bohemian aesthetic exploring Bowie's gender ambiguity and his play on masculinity and femininity, just as the singer did during his various fashion metamorphoses.

Chung creates a romantic bohemian aesthetic exploring Bowie's gender ambiguity and his play on masculinity and femininity

Yellow tailored jacket and shirt
with large, pointed collar
inspired by Bowie
Chung was particularly drawn to Bowie's coolly elegant tailored Eighties looks that he wore after his earlier, more dramatic stage personae and this is reflected in her range of suits. She has designed the collection using a range of different textiles from checked and pinstriped suits to glimmering knitwear and shirts with a metallic sheen. A luminescent fabric emphasises the more high-tech futuristic approach. Yet the collection also looks back to the power-shoulder, a motif that runs through the collection along with big, deeply pointed collars. There is even a matching yellow jacket and shirt (see at right) that echoes a 1974 Terry O’Neill portrait of David Bowie.

A zing of glam rock heightens the Bowie connection with Chung's use of PVC for check print or peach jackets and shirts worn with denim and leather pants, the gender ambiguity highlighted by glittering diamanté chokers, round handbags and high-heeled, chunky ankle boots. Although mixing streetwear and tailoring is a leitmotif of contemporary menswear, the designer has given it her own signature with its volume, fluidity and combination of soft and hard textures. One of Chung's new additions is the use of the brand's logo WYM that appears on this season's suits, t-shirts and belts.

Mixing streetwear and tailoring is a leitmotif of contemporary menswear, yet the designer has given it her own signature

Voluminous jacket, leather pants, the WYM
belt and high-heeled ankle boots
complete the SS19 look
Katie Chung succeeded her mother at last season's menswear collection after having worked beside her as co-creative director. Chung has said in the past of her childhood that she grew up in her mother's atelier and that she learnt to sew before she could write.

Today, although Madame Woo is still close by and supports her daughter, Katie Chung has confidently taken the reins of Wooyoungmi and is giving it a evocative edge of street style and sportswear that builds on her mother's pioneering legacy as a Korean designer breaking into the Parisian fashion world.

Madame Woo, as she became known, was born in Seoul to an architect and an art and piano teacher. Her father was the head of an architectural firm and travelled overseas extensively, bringing back international magazines which gave Woo Youngmi a sense of the world outside South Korea.

The young Woo became interested in fashion at a time when the country was struggling with post-war political unrest. In 1978, she began her fashion studies at Seoul's Sung Kyun Kwan University. After she graduated in 1983, she was named the winner of the Osaka International Fashion Award, when she was selected to represent Korea.

Katie Chung grew up in her mother's atelier and learnt to sew before she could write

Designer Katie Chung takes her bow
at the finale of her SS19 show in Paris
Later Woo Youngmi launched the menswear brand Solid Homme in 1988, starting with one showroom in Seoul before branching out all over the world. Along with other designer friends, she started the New Wave in the early Nineties, as a platform for young designers to show their work which eventually lead to the creation of Seoul Fashion Week.

The designer founded and launched her own brand Wooyoungmi in 2002 in Paris. The label became known for its art and architecture inspirations and finely tailored menswear with a futuristic edge. Woo Youngmi was showing on the Paris Menswear Week by 2003 and eight years later, the label became an official member of La Chambre Syndicale de la Mode Masculine.

Katie Chung became more involved with her mother's fashion house in 2012 as art director, collaborating with artists for their advertising campaigns. She became joint creative director of the brand with her mother in 2014 later after completing a BA at London’s Central Saint Martins, before taking over the artistic direction of the brand last year.

 Highlights from the Wooyoungmi SS19 Homme Show in Paris
Katie Chung succeeded her mother at last season's Wooyongmi menswear collection after having worked beside her as co-creative director.
Mixing streetwear and tailoring is a leitmotif of contemporary menswear, but Katie Chung has given it her own signature with its volume, fluidity and combination of soft and hard textures.

Guests in the front row at Wooyoungmi SS19, the show was located in the French capital's 15th arrondissement, at the Lycée Camille-Sée.
Katie Chung's aim with the new collection was to create a romantic bohemian aesthetic exploring David Bowie's gender ambiguity and his play on masculinity and femininity.
Models wore some of the favourite Seventies hues: yellows and browns in stripes and blocks of colour.
Guests at the of Wooyoungmi SS19 show held in the cavernous, utilitarian space of a Paris high school.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

MoMA at the NGV: Exhilarating Evocation of the Avant-Garde

Glenn D. Lowry and Tony Ellwood with Umberto Boccioni's bronze sculpture Unique Forms of Continuity in Space. Portraits for DAM by Paul James McDonnell. See below for Jeanne-Marie Cilento's video interview.
A major new exhibition opens at the National Gallery of Victoria, featuring key works from New York's Museum of Modern Art, from Pablo Picasso and Frida Kahlo to Jeff Koons and Cindy Sherman plus drawings, sculpture and furniture. Many have never been to Australia or left MoMA. We speak to Glenn D. Lowry, Director of MoMA and Tony Ellwood, Director of the NGV. Story by our Special Correspondent in Melbourne Sally Holdsworth

Glenn Lowry, director of MoMA, at the NGV
 with Dali's Surrealist masterpiece
The Persistence of Memory
DAPPER and erudite, Glenn D. Lowry, the director of New York's Museum of Modern Art, stops in front of Salvador Dali’s totemic 1931 painting, The Persistence of Memory. Dali, he explains at the National Gallery of Victoria, painted the image at a time of social change and scientific discovery, just after Einstein’s theory of relativity. “It packs such enormous punch in such a small package,” he says. “Its intensity, its magic is derived by its scale and its impression of space - that time is warped.” With its melting distorted clocks, it is Dali’s way of commenting on the intersection of time and space.

Lowry is in Melbourne for the world premiere of the exhibition, MoMA at NGV: 130 Years of Modern and Contemporary Art, which has opened at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) and will run until October, 2018. This is only the second time the Dali has been lent to an international gallery. Its presence signals the importance that the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) gives to this exhibition, which hosts many works never before seen in Australia.

Salvador Dalí (Spanish 1904–89)
The Persistence of Memory (1931)
oil on canvas 24.1 x 33.0cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
©Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí
Copyright Agency 2018
The historic New York Museum is undertaking a major renovation and this has provided the opportunity for a loan of such magnitude. The NGV exhibition gives life to Lowry's belief that the collection should be shared with the broadest possible audience. 

“Museums have emerged as the pre-eminent civic spaces in today’s culture,” says Lowry. “Museums bring people of different backgrounds - socio-economic positions, ethnic and racial backgrounds, different intellectual positions and geographic position - together in a common experience to look at and think about art and culture.”

In a coup for the NGV, more than 230 hand-picked masterpieces are now installed as part of its 2018 Winter Masterpieces series. The series is a fifteen-year project that began in 2004; past shows have included The Hermitage, Degas and Van Gogh and the Seasons.

"Museums have emerged as the pre-eminent civic spaces in today’s culture”

However, according to the director of the NGV, Tony Ellwood, “this extensive exhibition - years in the planning - is the most ambitious yet attempted.”  “We started talking about this over four years ago,” says Lowry, of early discussions he had with Ellwood. “Tony was in New York at the time we were beginning construction and he wanted to know if we would consider a collaboration. He’s a great colleague, I’ve always admired him and we were thrilled to do it.”

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (German 1880–1938)
Street, Dresden (1908)
(reworked 1919, dated on painting 1907)
oil on canvas 150.5 x 200.4 cm
 Purchase, 1951. Digital Image
©The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2018
What gives Lowry the most satisfaction about his work as the director of MoMA? “Looking at art and talking to artists is what I love doing, that’s why we do what we do...but I love working with people and this collaboration has really been a partnership.”

This is a reference to the way the MoMA and NGV curatorial teams worked together on the exhibition.  “Watching how they have changed this exhibition as it evolved, that’s an enormous thrill if you like this notion that art should create relationships and conversations, whether it’s between a work of art and the general public, or between curators and institutions,” says Lowry. “So it’s been really rewarding to see that happen.” As Lowry and Ellwood walk through the show, their excitement and pride are palpable.

“It was amazing to walk through the exhibition and realise...we loaned them that!” says Lowry of the collection, which comprises some of MoMA’s best and most well-loved pieces. The works on display in Melbourne span 130 years, covering the significant art movements from Cubism, Surrealism and the Bauhaus, to Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art and contemporary art.

"Art should create relationships and conversations, whether it’s between a work of art and the general public or between curators and institutions”

Innovative modern design at the NGV
show including Gaetano Pesce's Moloch
floor lamp (1971)
& Joe Colombo's Universale
stacking chairs (1967) for Kartell

The exhibition includes pieces from MoMA’s six curatorial departments: architecture and design, drawing and prints, film, media and performance art, painting, sculpture and photography. It showcases the museums multi-disciplinary approach to collecting, with notable examples of design, lighting, furniture and technological innovation. Choosing the works to display was a joint decision involving Lowry and Ellwood, and curators from both museums.

 “We looked at the key works that were vital and then started building stories around them,” says Tony Ellwood.  “That’s why there are eight themes, done chronologically, so it’s quite friendly, starting with early works then slowly unfolding and helping to explain why we are at contemporary art today.”

Pablo Picasso (Spanish 1818-1973)
Seated Bather (1930)
oil on canvas 163.2x129.5cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Mrs Simon Guggenheim Fund, 1950
©Succession Picasso/Licensed by
Copyright Agency, 2018

The sprawling collection, which takes up the entire ground floor of the NGV International, begins in the early twentieth century with the European masters who kick-started the New York museum's original collection in 1929. Called Arcadia and Metropolis, it contains the DNA of MoMA, the foundation on which it is built. Significant works from artists of the nineteenth and twentieth century are represented here: Pablo Picasso, Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, Paul Cezanne, Vincent Van Gogh and Georges-Pierre Seurat whose delicate pointillist work, Evening, Honfleur, is as magnetic and contemporary today as when it was painted in 1886.

Machinery of the Modern World brings together objects from just before and during the First World War - a time in which an explosive cultural scene was unfolding in Europe. Masterpieces are laid out to show the conversation between objects and thoughts across different mediums. “Energy, motion, design are coded into these objects,” says Lowry, who believes that curating can be like poetry. “There are visual rhymes that also resonate with very thoughtful explorations of the way artists were thinking about the world.”

This marriage of art and design reflects MoMA’s early striving to find the linkages between industrialisation and the high arts. Echoing MoMA’s radical homage to industrial design, the Machine Art exhibition of 1934, the NGV collection features design wonders from the twentieth century. Sven Wingquist’s Self-Aligning Ball Bearing from 1907, is an exemplar of its time and here it is: rounds within rounds, sleekly elegant, still modern (see below).

“We looked at the key works that were vital and then started building stories around them”

René Magritte (Belgian 1898–1967)
The Portrait (1935)
oil on canvas 73.3 x 50.2cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Gift of Kay Sage Tanguy, 1956
©René Magritte/ADAGP, Paris, Magritte
Miró, Chagall. Licensed by
Copyright Agency 2018
In the same room, Marcel Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel from 1913 (see images in gallery below) subversively marries functional objects, a stool and bicycle wheel, to create one of the first examples of conceptual art. With its lens on the latter part of the century, Flight Patterns shows the effect of increased physical mobility and the impact of the emerging digital age. Solari di Undine’s Split flap board flight information display system from 1996, evocatively captures, both visibly and audibly, the experience of travellers in the pre-digital age.
The 1998-99 work, Emoji, by Shigetake Kurita et al (see below), with its familiar assembly of keyboard characters and symbols, heralds the typography of the digital design era. The exhibition is a vivid reminder of the impact of social and cultural change on design across decades, and its convergence with contemporary art.

“MoMA is very thoughtful about providing the kind of diversity and balance, both culturally, through gender where possible - all the key elements,” says Ellwood.

Early Modernism, De Stijl and the Bauhaus movements in revolutionary Russia, the Netherlands and Germany are explored in The New Unity section. From film to painting to costume design, this era had a global influence. Artists such as Torres-Garcia and Mondrian travelled, forging relationships and connections with other artists, spreading ideas about what modern art meant - visually and in terms of social change.

 "There are eight themes, done chronologically, so it’s quite friendly, starting with early works then slowly unfolding and helping to explain why we are at contemporary art today" 

Frida Kahlo (Mexican 1907–54),
Self-portrait with Cropped Hair (1940)
oil on canvas 40.0 x 27.9cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Gift of Edgar Kaufmann, Jr, 1943
©Frida Kahlo Estate/ARS
Licensed by Copyright Agency 2018

Here, Mondrian’s Composition in Red, Blue and Yellow, and Gerritt Rietveld’s The Red and Blue Chair, are perfectly simpatico (see picture below). In its consideration of Surrealism, the section of the exhibition called Inner and Outer Worlds includes the works of Joan Miro, Rene Magritte and Frida Kahlo’s compelling 1940 work Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair.

The portrait of Kahlo with her long hair shorn, dressed in a man’s suit, is a comment on beauty as a commodity. It gives an insight into Kahlo’s perception of her own beauty and her position as a female artist at the time. Seventy years later, the image is powerful and the message still resonates.

Here, too, are American masters: Edward Hopper’s Gas from 1940 profoundly captures the quotidian life of mid-century America. Iconic pieces are everywhere, instantly recognisable. Not just art, but furniture and everyday design.

In the part entitled Things As They Are, the metallic architectural lines of an oversized Moloch Floor Lamp by Gaetano Pesce from 1971 (see above), contrast with the soft curves and green-and-yellow fabric of the wall-mounted Malitte Lounge Furniture, designed by Roberto Matta in 1966. It’s a fun and head-spinning trip back to the sixties and seventies.

The emblematic Drowning Girl, painted by Roy Lichtenstein in 1963, has been selected as the exhibition’s Pop Art calling card, with it's dramatic cartoonish image and caption, seemingly printed but all painted by hand. An Australian connection is also on display: the work of Sydney-born artist Martin Sharp, whose psychedelic poster design for sixties rock band Cream became the album cover for Disraeli Gears, completely captures the zeitgeist of the decade (see below). Robert Indiana’s LOVE, with its stencilled font, is here too; an indelible reminder of the freedom of the sixties. Moving through rooms and themes, Immense Encyclopedia shows the influence of social and political change as art moves into the postmodern age.

“There are visual rhymes that resonate with thoughtful explorations of the way artists were thinking about the world.”

Roy Lichtenstein (American 1923-97)
Drowning Girl (1963)
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas171.6x169.5cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Philip Johnson Fund (by exchange)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Bagley Wright, 1971
©Estate of Roy Lichtenstein/Copyright Agency, 2018

The art collective General Idea’s memorable AIDS (Wallpaper) from 1988, inspired by Indiana’s earlier work LOVE, replaces the familiar letters LOVE with AIDS. It is a reminder of the upheaval it wrought in that decade. Elsewhere, Jeff Koons’s Plexiglas-enclosed vacuum cleaners are like Postmodern sculptures called New Shelton Wet/Dry Doubledecker, they make us question the nature of contemporary art.

Accompanying Lowry at the opening of the exhibition were members of the MoMA team including curators Juliet Kinchin and Christian Rattemeyer; Ramona Bannayan, Deputy Director of Exhibitions and Collections; and Jay Levenson, Director of MoMA’s International Program. They worked with key staff at the NGV, including Dr Miranda Wallace, senior curator of international collections, and exhibition designer, Ingrid Rhule, to curate the milestone collection.

The deft showcasing of such works as Gauguin’s masterful The Moon and the Earth, Andy Warhol’s seminal Marilyn Monroe, and Camille Henrot’s filmic Grosse Fatigue is to witness MoMA’s prescience in tracking art and design over 130 years.

"This ability to imagine new futures and move in new directions guides MoMA today and is embodied in the NGV works"

  Sonia Delaunay-Terk (French Ukraine 1885–1979)
Portuguese Market (1915)
oil and wax on canvas 90.5 x 90.5cm
Gift of Theodore R. Racoosin, 1955
Discussing MoMA’s legacy, Lowry describes its founders and early curators as visionaries who believed that the visual arts cut across all domains.

 “They saw the museum as being metabolic and self-renewing, a place of change, not stasis,” he explains. "This ability to imagine new futures and move in new directions guides MoMA today and is embodied in the NGV works."

And what does Lowry plan for MoMA’s future direction? “First and foremost, to finish this [renovation] project and get it open, and then begin to experiment. If a museum is a laboratory then we are about to finish building the lab. Then we can start playing with it, learn how to use it, discover new ways of thinking and imagining what can happen inside that space.”

MoMA at NGV: 130 Years of Modern and Contemporary Art at the National Gallery of Victoria from 9th June to 7th October, 2018.
Watch the interview with MoMA Director Glenn D. Lowry by Jeanne-Marie Cilento

Lyubov’ Popova (Russian 1889–1924) Painterly Architectonic (1917) oil on canvas 80.0 x 98.0 cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York Philip Johnson Fund, 1958 Digital Image © The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Henri Matisse (French 1869–1954) Music (sketch) (1907)
 Oil and charcoal on canvas.73.4 x 60.8 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of A. Conger Goodyear in honor of Alfred H. Barr, Jr., 1962 ©Succession H. Matisse / Succession H. Matisse. Licensed by Copyright Agency, 2018

 Giorgio de Chirico (Italian born Greece 1888–1978) Gare Montparnasse (The melancholy of departure) (1914 )
Oil on canvas. 140.0 x 184.5 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, New York Gift of James Thrall Soby, 1969 © Giorgio de Chirico / SIAE, Rome. Licensed by Copyright Agency, 2018

Vincent van Gogh (Dutch 853–90) Portrait of Joseph Roulin (1889) oil on canvas. 64.4 x 55.2 cm
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William A. M. Burden, Mr. and Mrs. Paul Rosenberg, Nelson A. Rockefeller, Mr. and Mrs. Armand P. Bartos, The Sidney and Harriet Janis Collection, Mr. and Mrs. Werner E. Josten, and Loula D. Lasker Bequest (all by exchange), 1989 Digital Image © The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2018

Paul Gauguin (French 1848–1903) The Moon and the Earth (1893) oil on burlap. 114.3 x 62.2 cm.
The Museum of Modern Art, New York Lillie P. Bliss Collection, 1934 Digital Image © The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2018
Pictured at the NGV, works by Umberto Boccioni, Marcel Duchamp, Robert Delaunay, Sonia Delaunay and Fernand Léger.

Andy Warhol's Marilyn Monroe (1967) screen prints, pictured at the NGV exhibition.Editions of 250, 91.5 x 91.5 cm each image and sheet. Publisher: Factory Additions, New York
Part of the show at the NGV, Gerrit Rietveld's Red Blue Chair (designed c.1918, painted c.1923) and Piet Mondrian's Composition in Red, Blue, and Yellow (1937–42).
Pictured at the NGV's exhibition of works from MoMA, Mark Rothko's No. 3/No.13 (1949) and Jackson Pollock's Number 7 (1950)

At the NGV exhibition, a wall-sized version of Shigetaka Kurita 's Emoji (1998–99). Digital image The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Part of the NGV exhibition, Sven Wingquist's  (Swedish 1876–1953) Self-aligning Ball Bearing (1907).  Chrome-plated steel 21.6 x 4.4 cm diameter. The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

The MoMA at the NGV show, including influential works such as Andre Derain's expressionistic Bathers 1907 (centre) and Henri Matisse's Music 1907 (right).

Looking across the the NGV exhibition's Modern artworks including paintings by Edward Hopper and Joan Miro
Martin Sharp (Australian 1942–2013) Robert Whitaker (photographer British 1939–2011). Reaction Records (record label) British 1966–67 Album cover for Cream, Disraeli Gears (1967) lithograph 30.5 x 30.5cm Museum of Modern Art, New York Committee on Architecture and Design Funds, 2014 © Estate of Martin Sharp / Licensed by Copyright Agency, 2018
Robert Indiana (American born 1928) LOVE (1967) Screen print, edition of 250 86.3 x 86.3 cm (image and sheet)
Publisher: Multiples, Inc., New York Printer: Sirocco Screenprinters, North Haven, Connecticut. The Museum of Modern Art, New York Riva Castleman Fund, 1990 © Morgan Art Foundation / ARS. Licensed by Copyright Agency, 2018

Jeff Koons (American born 1955) New Shelton wet/dry doubledecker (1981) Vacuum cleaners, plexiglass, and fluorescent lights. 245.4 x 71.1 The Museum of Modern Art, New York Gift of Werner and Elaine Dannheisser, 1996 © Jeff Koons

Monday, 4 June 2018

Interview: British Designer Lee Broom's Celestial Vision

Designer Lee Broom with his new Aurora chandelier at the Observatory exhibition in Milan's Brera district. Portrait for DAM by Elli Ioannou
Lee Broom is one of Britain's top designers with showrooms in London and New York. So far he has won more than twenty awards, including British Designer of the Year and The Queen’s Award for Enterprise. Lee Broom's new Observatory collection is being launched with a trilogy of shows in Milan, New York and London. We spoke to the dynamic designer about what drives and inspires his life and work. Story by Jeanne-Marie Cilento. Additional reporting and portraits by Elli Ioannou

Lee Broom at the
Observatory exhibition in Milan
LIVELY and engaging British designer Lee Broom stands amid the glowing lamps he designed for his evocative new show in Milan. The cool, monochromatic look of his lighting designs for the Observatory collection have a crisp geometry and moon-like celestial gleam that was inspired by the heavens above and with names to match: Eclipse, Orion and Aurora.

"This collection does have a celestial quality to it," Broom says. "It wasn't intentional to start with; I was designing the pieces but not necessarily thinking of a theme just working with shape and things like that. But I visited some friends in the country, in the Cotswold's and it was a beautiful, beautiful clear night and we all went star gazing.

"I hadn't seen stars like that as far as I could remember because I am in the city most of the time. So I think that evening had a subliminal influence on me. When I was looking at the pieces later, I was thinking 'Gosh these to me all really have a stellar quality associated with them'. So I just fully embraced that."

Reflecting on the work that led him to create his own design company ten years ago, Lee Broom says working with fashion icon Vivienne Westwood when he was seventeen years old was one of the most formative experiences of his career. The designer had just won a Young Fashion Designer of the Year award and Westwood gave him the chance to work with her for several days before offering him an internship for nearly a year, working with her in Paris and London. You can see why Westwood saw the potential in the young designer as he still combines an unquenchable enthusiasm for designing with a thoughtful approach that has led him to not only create his own products but have many of them made at his own factory in East London.

"Vivienne Westwood invited me to initially spend a couple of days at her studio but it was actually with her in her office," Lee Broom says in Milan. "After that she offered me a job as an intern for 10 months, working in Paris and London. I think that experience really cemented my wanting to go into design. She influenced me a lot I think. It is a very impressionable age seventeen and eighteen years old and I was soaking it all up like a sponge. That formative year has really stuck with me."

Broom went on to study womenswear at Central Saint Martins and after graduating in 2000 he changed direction and opened an interior design practice for four years with Japanese fellow graduate Maki Aoki. They designed nightclubs, bars and restaurants before Aoki eventually went back to Japan and Broom decided to open his own company. Although he moved from fashion to focus on interior design, the designer still applies a fashion ethos to creating his new collections today.

"Vivienne Westwood offered me a job as an intern for 10 months, working in Paris and London. I think that experience really cemented my wanting to go into design"

The coolly minimalist design of the
Observatory show
"Season after season the look of my collections changes but the overarching house style remains the same," he explains. "Every season we develop the style and it changes and a lot of people say to me 'it's so different from last time' but it feels quite normal for me to do that. I think that does stem from my training in fashion. Fashion influences my work too when I'm designing collections or new products as I'm not scared to develop or expand the style or work with new materials. I think that is more synonymous with fashion and it is what I have done with my own brand of furniture and lighting. I love fashion and I am more inclined to read a fashion magazine than an interiors magazine."

However, Broom’s creative career didn't actually begin in fashion but even earlier as a child when he worked as an actor in many TV shows and theatre productions, including as a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, from the ages of seven to seventeen years old. With this work behind him at a young age, he was able to finance an early move from his family home in the Midlands to London. "I grew up in the Midlands but I've been living in London for more than 25 years and I consider the city my home,'' he says.

"London absolutely influences me all of the time. I love cities and I am a city boy at heart. I like the energy, I like seeing what people are wearing. I love the architecture. I love the galleries ~ just the energy you get from a busy city. We have a showroom in Soho in Manhattan. So I am there every other month and New York has the same feeling."

Today, Lee Broom says his work is still connected to fashion. "I think the whole model of fashion is inspiring ~ how it changes and how fast it is,'' he says. "I like to work really quickly as well. Of course, we are working with products that are going to be sitting in some body's home potentially forever or passed down for generations, so it cannot be as fast as fashion."

"Season after season the look of my collections changes but the overarching house style remains the same. Fashion influences my work when I'm designing as I'm not scared to develop the style or work to with new materials"

The Tidal lamp designed with two
hemispheres, like a gravitational force
 pulling them apart.
However, Broom has made the way of purchasing his new designs much more immediate. Inspired by the see now/buy now movement that upended the fashion world, with pieces seen on the catwalk available to buy straightaway, Broom's new exhibitions of work can also be bought without waiting months for the design prototypes to be manufactured.

"In this industry we understand when we see a sample or a prototype of a product that it won't be available for months or even longer and sometimes not at all," says Broom. "I think for the general public they don't understand that. Why would you publish a design in a magazine of something that doesn't exist yet? I also feel that the production and the manufacturing of a prototype is the majority of the work. It really changes a piece and challenges you to create multiples rather than just one.

"Sometimes the whole manufacturing process can change and that is half the battle of getting a product from A to Z. We've always put our designs into production that we have displayed. But this year I wanted to propel that forward. So what I've presented here in Milan is going to be exactly what you're going to get if you choose to buy one of the pieces." Departing from the traditional design week model of previewing new designs months before they go on sale, products from the Observatory collection are available to purchase immediately from stores and on line so visitors to the show have instant access to them for the first time.

The Orion collection of lighting designs combined
in different formations. Photo: Elli Ioannou
After Broom celebrated the tenth anniversary of his company in 2017, he decided to refocus on lighting for the new collection. Launched in Milan in April, the Observatory range includes four new lighting collections with seven new designs. The galaxy-inspired pieces play with the refraction and reflection of light and with vertical and horizontal proportions. Other pieces are more sculptural and spherical in form.

"The Observatory is probably one of my more commercial collections in a way," Broom says thoughtfully. "But I am not afraid of being commercial because I have a business to run. I like the fact that people buy my products. It is incredibly satisfying that someone would like your work so much that they would part with their hard-earned cash for it. Last year we did a very extravagant exhibition of our ten years and it was all about limited edition designs and really about the brand rather than the products. So this year I wanted to do something different. I wanted to create pieces that people will come in and say 'I would really love to have that in my home'."

"This collection does have a celestial quality to it. I visited some friends in the country, in the Cotswolds, and it was a beautiful clear night and we all went star gazing. I think that evening had a subliminal influence on me"

 The Eclipse lamp is made up of two
intersecting discs
The Observatory collection uses new technology featuring LED lighting systems and bulbs custom-designed and developed in-house and has finishes including polished chrome plus new interpretations of materials used in past collections. The Eclipse collection includes three of the seven new pieces and has a dramatic celestial inspiration with mirror-polished chrome discs that interact and obscure, eclipsing and revealing its illumination to the viewer at the same time. Orion comprises modular tube lights and opaque, polished gold spheres which can be combined both horizontally and vertically to create custom "constellations of light".

"Each of the lighting pieces is inspired by this idea of the celestial bodies and the solar system,"  Broom says. "There is a simplicity to the shapes and silhouettes. There is an element of reflection and refraction and the idea of using lenses and emitting light in an unusual way.

"The Eclipse is made up of two intersecting discs. One is a polished stainless steel disc that acts as a mirror and reflects an LED acrylic disc. So when you look at the light from different angles it changes." The Orion collection is made up of two designs, one a polished gold tube with an illuminated globe while the other one is an illuminated tube with a polished gold sphere. "The idea is you can hang them in many different constellations," says Broom.

Aurora is a chandelier design with a range of diameters that can be altered to create layers of gleaming rings of light created with vertical LED bulbs. While the Tidal lamp is made of a polished chrome and opaque acrylic with two balancing hemispheres that look like they are being pulled apart by gravitational force.

Lee Broom has also launched a new design in the USA this month called Lens Flair, that was exhibited at his Greene Street store in New York's Soho. The spherical light can be a pendant or table lamp and was inspired by telescopic lenses and mixes glass and solid brass.

"I like the fact that people buy my products. It is incredibly satisfying that someone would like your work so much that they would part with their hard-earned cash for it"

Lee Broom believes that lighting is absolutely key in the design of an interior, more important than any other element. "I always found as an interior designer that often people put in lighting as an afterthought rather than the first thing," he says. "For me,it is the most important element of the space in terms of the hue, how it illuminates the space and how it makes you feel. If it is an office it also has to be functional, so its incredibly important.

"I feel that now more than ever decorative lighting is playing a much more important role in all interiors, including very commercial spaces. Gone are the days where you put a light in the centre of the living room and expect that to just illuminate the space. Today, people are looking at decorative lighting as accent lights, as jewellery for the space, not just the main lighting for the space."

 The Orion lamps exhibited in Milan
The designer says when he is first working on creating a design, the process is more instinctive and intuitive than rational. " I think it is more emotional," he says. "When I am initially designing pieces I am not really working with any boundaries whatsoever. I design quite alone and I do a lot of sketching and just visualising of what I want. In the beginning, it is very personal and I am really focused on what I like and then other people come in after that. It has to be authentic, the design represents what you want and what you are into at that time.

"The form and function starts to comes in a little bit later on. I think if I was to approach my design instantly from being practical at the outset I would dilute some of the aesthetics. But I enjoy creating products that are functional. I am a designer not an artist."

During the ten years since Broom founded his own company in 2007, he has created more than 100 furniture, accessory and lighting designs for his own brand. But he has also designed products and interiors for international companies such as Christian Louboutin and Mulberry and last year he created a limited edition collection of Jasperware for Wedgwood. So far he has designed more than 45 commercial retail, restaurant and bar interiors and has his products stocked in more than 250 stores around the world, alongside the flagship showrooms in London and New York.

"When I am initially designing pieces I am not really working with any boundaries. I design quite alone and I do a lot of sketching and just visualising of what I want"

The new Lens Flair lamp launched in New York
at Lee Broom's Soho showroom
Today, Lee Broom says he finds the early part of the design process the most interesting and fulfilling. "I think the initial part, the inception of the idea is one of the most satisfying because it is in your head, it is an exciting moment, you're focused on the future and what will become of it," he explains.

"Then I think seeing the piece for the first time, seeing the prototype ~ actually it can a be a very amazing experience or a very awful experience! I think those two points in the journey are the most exciting.

"The prototype doesn't even have to be finished but it is like getting a sample, a section or a finish and then being able to imagine the rest of it ~ that is incredibly exciting. Because it is like a birth, it is something starting to come to life. I am really lucky to be able to see the ideas that are in my head created in reality. It is a really nice experience. But it is also challenging because you are constantly striving for perfection."

The Observatory exhibition first opened in Milan in April during the Salone del Mobile before travelling to New York in May and Los Angeles this month. The collection can be seen at the London Design Festival in September 2018.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Master of Light: Victor Horta in Brussels

The spectacular glass cupola of Victor Horta's Van Eetvelde House. Photograph (above) and Cover picture of the Horta- Lambeaux Pavilion for DAM by Elli Ioannou
Belgian architect Victor Horta was one of the pioneers of Art Nouveau and his work is celebrated this year by the City of Brussels with an extensive program of exhibitions and events. We look at some of the most innovative and influential townhouses he built, where he designed not only the architecture but every detail of the interiors. A special report by Jeanne-Marie Cilento. Photographs by Elli Ioannou

The dining room Victor Horta designed for his own
townhouse in Brussels
ARCHITECTURE makes up the visual language of a city, it defines it’s identity, history and atmosphere. Evocative architecture creates great cities and draws people from around the world. Brussels distinctive Art Nouveau buildings have become landmarks for both the city's inhabitants and for visitors alike. One of the major Belgian architects who has contributed to creating Brussels' historic built environment is Victor Horta who has left his mark not only on the city's architecture but as a Belgian pioneer in Art Nouveau design.

This year, Brussels is celebrating the architect as one of Belgium's most influential designers and a leader of the Art Nouveau movement. The 12 month program, called Horta Inside Out, has many of the architect's Brussels' buildings open to the public for different events. It is presented by the City of Brussels and includes conferences, guided visits and exhibitions which explore Victor Horta's work.

Art Nouveau emerged in the 1890s and is characterised by sinuous lines and flowing organic shapes based on plant forms. It was a complete design philosophy and aesthetic that encompassed not only architecture but interior design, furniture, wallpaper and fabrics. The origins of Art Nouveau can be traced back to the writings of the French architectural theoretician Eugène Viollet-le-Duc whose Entretiens was published in 1863 and 1872. He wrote about using modern materials and new technology, such as lightweight metal armatures that would allow cantilevered or arched forms without the traditional use of heavy masonry, as a way to break from the past.

The light-filled cupola and atrium of
 the Van Eetvelde House
Victor Horta was a disciple of Viollet-le-Duc and was the first architect to use these ideas to create the sinuous Art Nouveau buildings we know today. Steel was the great innovation of the late 19th century and Horta used it in the designs of his new public, commercial and residential buildings and he was one of the first to expose it structurally rather than cover it with masonry. In 1893, he stunned the international architectural community with the virtuosity of his fluid design for the light and spacious Emile Tassel townhouse that brought Art Nouveau from purely the decorative arts into the architectural realm. The Tassel House is one of the key buildings of the era and has many of Horta’s design motifs which were to become synonymous with Art Nouveau. Other influential buildings are his home and atelier, now a museum, and the lesser known but equally important Maison Frison and Maison Van Eetvelde, all built within a short period, from 1893 to 1900.

Horta’s particular style of Art Nouveau was influenced by botanical studies and was less floral than the motifs used by designers in Paris. He was more interested in the stems of plants and the way they grow upwards seemingly ‘extending into infinity'. They inspired his use of the spiral staircase and creating landings ~ like leaves on a branch ~ leading to different living spaces. As Horta's stairwells are covered by glass ceilings they give a glimpse of light and sky, looking up into endless space.

Central to Victor Horta’s design methodology was his study of movement and light. His approach and design solutions also considered the ergonomic as well as the artistic and he was very forward thinking for his time. Horta valued both the function and look of a design equally and this was integral to his Modernist sensibility that was a true break from 19th century thinking.

Movement and light are key to Horta's design philosophy

The curling, plant-like design of the
 stair rail at the Frison House
The architect's sources of inspiration and influences were equally innovative. These included the work of Viollet-le-Duc, botanical studies and Japanese art and culture. Like many avant-garde designers, Horta's new and unfamiliar work was not always appreciated and accepted at the time. Even some of his builders tried to sabotage his projects. Unfortunately, many of Horta’s buildings which were privately commissioned, were destroyed or significantly altered during his lifetime. A distraught Horta subsequently proceeded to destroy many of his drawings, making it a difficult jigsaw puzzle to restore some of the remaining buildings back to their original condition.

Victor Horta was passionate about design and often worked in his Brussels atelier for three days without stopping or allowing himself to be disturbed. His food was even left outside of the door so he wouldn't be interrupted. He designed buildings and interiors, oversaw the making of models and had a basement space dedicated to the making of ornaments created by sculptors he employed, many of them his friends.

Horta took a very different approach to design compared to French architects and his work is the opposite of the wide open spaces and direct perspective that was typical in Paris at the time.

The vaulted atrium above the stairwell
in Horta's house.
His work is complex and circular; Horta often used spiral staircases and steel and glass ceilings to bring movement and light into buildings. Tall terraces sitting side by side typified the housing in Brussels. Combined with the city's long winters, this meant that they could be dark and depressing so it was important to be able to bring natural light into the centre of buildings which Horta nicknamed the ‘dead zone’.

Horta's choice of materials was integral to both the design and functionality of his buildings: the transparency of glass in different textures, leadlight and mirrors all contributed to a sense of creating motion and a perception of light and space, as well as being decorative. The architect's other main design solutions for opening up the physical space of an interior was to introduce mezzanines between floors, a revolutionary change at the time. Horta also pioneered the use of electricity in private homes which, at that period, was predominantly only used commercially.

Horta was so passionate about design he often worked in his Brussels atelier for three days without stopping

The curvilinear design of Horta's
innovative suspended,
steel balconies.
Victor Horta's Townhouse and Atelier
The architect's former house and studio situated in the St Gilles district in Brussels is now the Victor Horta museum and embodies the essence of his Art Nouveau philosophy. It was built between 1898 -1901 and has recently been restored. Horta not only designed the architecture of the building but created every detail of the interiors. Each room is full of his experimental use of new forms and materials from the swirling designs of the mosaic floors and the wall coverings in marble, bronze and silks along with the vivid and curvilinear stained glass panels, plant-like light fittings, vases, carved wooden furniture and the fine bronze door handles and hinges with dynamic shapes.

It was very unusual at the time that his work encompassed not just the architecture but a complete and integrated design for the interior of his houses. He was daring in his design thinking and the insistence on its exact execution. And since Brussels in the late 19th century and early 20th century was one of the wealthiest industrialised cities in Europe, Horta's clients had budgets that allowed him to explore and experiment with new designs.

For his own house, the external materials were more elaborate than his adjoining atelier as he wanted to make a statement that an affluent architect lived here. The balconies were innovative and Horta used suspended steel rather than using supporting columns from below. He was one of the first architects to use steel in this type of construction and chose to reveal the structure which was new and experimental. He highlighted this by using bronze which showed the structure as part of the design.

The clever addition of mirrors
created a great sense of light
and space in the stairwell of
Horta's house.
Horta’s designs also reflected the societal norms of the times particularly in the separation of the movement throughout the building by the owners, their guests and the home's staff. Different stairwells, passageways and doors were designed just for the use of staff and ensured the smooth running of the household.

In Horta's house, the first floor landing of the stairwell opens to three different spaces separated by steel, glass and double folding doors in mahogany with botanical designs for the leadlights.

At the very top of the staircase is a vaulted, glazed atrium that brings natural light flooding through the building. This is further enhanced by mirrors on opposite walls that give the sense of looking into infinite, light-filled space.

Always inventive and going against current trends, Horta continued to experiment with unexpected materials. For example, he covered the dining room walls in white enamelled brick, a material that was not considered sophisticated at the time but was exquisitely worked, alternating with glass, marble, gilt metal and fine woods. He even used exposed steel in bedrooms much to his clients' consternation.

Horta's work encompassed not just the architecture of a building but a complete and integrated interior design

 Beautiful bronze door handles
with Horta's signature whiplash curve
Other inventive touches in the living and dining rooms of the Horta house are ergonomic door handles with the same curve as the hand, built-in furniture and a dining table connected to electricity to keep plates warm. He also had a telephone at hand to call his staff  whenever they were needed which apparently impressed his guests.

The UNESCO commission recognized the Horta Museum as a World Heritage site in 2000 along with three other of his major town houses: the Maison Tassel, Maison Solvay and Maison van Eetvelde. Victor Horta's Art Nouveau designs are considered some of the most remarkable pioneering works of architecture of the late 19th century and early 20th century.

Their revolutionary steel structure, open plan interiors, natural light, fluid, botanical designs and multi levels made them unlike any other architecture seen before. An extensive restoration project of the Horta Maison and Atelier was completed in 2013 and the following year it won the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage.

The entrance to the Frison House
showing the stained glass windows
 and the sinuous handrails.
The Frison House
Where would historic buildings be without the support of private patrons and not for profit organisations coming to their rescue? Maison Frison is another of Victor Horta's important townhouses in need of restoration and its recent purchase reads like a movie script. The house was bought less than 12 months ago by Indian-born arts patron and jewellery designer, Nupur Tron. Living between Paris and Brussels, the designer says the decision to move to Belgium was with the intention of setting up a foundation as a platform for an exchange of art and cultural projects between India and Europe.

She was searching for a home to live in and came across the Frison House, even though at first she was unaware of its significant architectural and cultural history. She felt like it was destiny finding the house and buying it happened very quickly. Now she plans to run the Maison Frison as a museum and cultural foundation aiming to bridge the gap between the East and West with new artistic projects.

"There is a strong correlation between India and Art Nouveau ~ which was inspired by the East"

A detail showing the Frison House's bronze
handles and hand-painted decoration.
“I just went with the feeling and the energy of the house. It felt like the house found me, as if it was destiny,” she says today. “This house is a jewel and it was like discovering an uncut diamond that just needs polishing.

"There is a strong correlation between India and Art Nouveau, which was influenced by the East. The curves, the stained glass windows, are typical of palaces in Rajasthan. Yet the house is at the same time contemporary, futuristic and modern but not kitsch. Art Nouveau is liveable but also it is discreet. The restoration and preservation of a house like this makes you proud of your heritage.”

The Frison House was originally built by Victor Horta for his friend, lawyer Maurice Frison, in 1894.  There are many Art Nouveau details remaining in the house, including dozens of steel handles with the iconic motif of vines. The house, located on a hilltop near Sablon in Brussels, was altered in 1955 when it was turned into a retail space and its ground floor had a shop window installed.

The slim, light structure of the
Frison House's conservatory.
Until the 1960s, Art Nouveau was often not valued and some of the buildings were sold for the price of the land. Although, today they are rare and worth several millions of dollars.

The Frison House's grand salon upstairs, features the original decorative marble fireplace, oak parquet floor and curved high ceilings. The substantial doors have lustrous handles designed with counterweights that could easily be opened by staff.

One of the outstanding features of the building is the conservatory, with its vaulted, stained-glass roof and slim, curling iron columns.

This space was restored by the former owners in 2005, using old photographs to replicate iron work and stained glass. It is one of Horta's most notable winter gardens. Napur Tron has embarked on a major restoration of the building and, when it is complete, it will be a new arts and culture centre for Brussels.

The Van Eetvelde House
The beautiful glass cupola and atrium
of the Van Eetvelde House
Many of Victor Horta’s clients were affluent and came from the Belgian capital's cultural elite and bourgeois intelligentsia. The Brussels' avant-garde wanted not only a new and modern art but an architecture that reflected the break with tradition. With a booming economy in Brussels, Edmond van Eetvelde, King Léopold II's Minister for Congolese affairs, commissioned Victor Horta to design him a luxurious townhouse in 1897.

By the late 19th century, Belgium was an industrialized country producing iron and steel that was also used in building houses. But it was not until Victor Horta and the advent of Art Nouveau that these materials were used in such an expressive way, later to be simplified and expressed more structurally in Modernist buildings.

For the Van Eetvelde house, Horta not only designed an innovative steel and iron structure for the façade, allowing for large windows decorated with his signature whiplash curves but he used steel for the interior detailing. The townhouse's structure is particularly slender and represents a modern way of building construction still being used now, and yet Horta was using these techniques in the 1890s.

To solve the dilemma of bringing natural light into Brussels' terraced houses, Horta once again opened up the centre of the building. This lead to one of his most beautiful designs, the soaring, octagonal atrium on slim iron pillars topped by cupola in stained glass that the Maison Van Eetvelde is known for. Horta also used other effective design solutions for opening up the space by using reflective materials such as mirrored glass and steel to enhance the sense of light. The botanical Art Nouveau designs of the stained glass of the cupola have a palm leaf motif and the pillars form the stems with vine-like curling iron banisters.

To solve the dilemma of getting natural light into Brussels' terraced houses, Horta opened up the centre of the building

Victor Horta's richly designed salon
 of the Van Eetvelde House with its
tall mirrors, green marble, silk
 and bronze borders.
The walls today are adorned with the original drawings of floral motifs synonymous with Art Nouveau. Victor Horta’s artists drew directly on to the wall, without stencils and in order to ensure their steady hands, their contract included a clause of no drinking or staying up late!

The octagonal stair-hall had various doors leading to different parts of the house and discretion and privacy were at the heart of its sophisticated design. The double height entrance also enabled circulation in a spiral movement. Horta designed the building so people lived at the centre of the house but circulated around the periphery.

The designer used expensive materials for the Van Eetveld house: marble and bronze with silk wall coverings, fine mosaics for the floors in green and pink with stairs bordered by dramatic curves. The colour palette of gold, green and ochre gave a cohesive look to the interior design.

 Horta was also a collector of Japanese art and the influence from Japan is especially evident in the main living room with its silk wall coverings. This large room has high, decorative ceilings and is lit by big windows. The architect cleverly uses mirrors as an integral part of the design rather than as a separate element. The walls are lined with green marble and the silk from France, bordered by rich bronze borders curling into Horta's whiplash shapes. The silk in the dining room is a copy of the original, as this was faded, but it has been recreated by the original company in Lyon.

Horta was not just an architect but a brilliantly creative artist and an unusually skilful designer.

A detail of the marble and bronze fireplace in the salon
with its handsome French silk wall covering.
The Van Eetvelde townhouse was designed and built in two stages, initially from 1895-97, and then an extension from 1899-1901. This had a sandstone façade and housed a garage, an office for Van Eetvelde with a separate entrance. Horta liked to design each of his buildings customised to the individual client, in exacting detail, according to their particular needs. This made it difficult for the next generation of owners to adapt to the space and many were sold with great difficulty although today they are very valuable. Today, the Van Eetvelde house is currently commercially leased.

Victor Horta's Legacy
Victor Horta was not just an architect but rather a brilliantly creative artist and an unusually skillful and imaginative industrial and interior designer. For him, architecture included every aspect associated with the buildings he designed from the light fittings to the furniture and the wallpaper to the floor tiles. Today, there are ten townhouses which remain standing and are now private residences, foundations or commercially occupied.

The intricate mosaic-tiled Art Nouveau patterns of the
Van Eetvelde's House's floors.
These buildings are considered the greatest expression of Art Nouveau in art and architecture and represent some of the most influential artistic and technological innovations that heralded the 20th century and the beginning of  Modernism.

The City of Brussels' program Horta: Inside Out  highlights and celebrates Victor Horta and his work and it is a unique opportunity to visit the architect's buildings that are not usually open to the public.

For more information about Victor Horta, the events in Brussels and the townhouses that are open, go to the Visit Brussels website.