Ron Arad, Well Tempered Chair, 1986, Prototype by Vitra GmbH, Germany.

Ron Arad Architects, Design Museum Holon, Israel, 2004-09, Photo courtesy Ron Arad Architects.

Ron Arad, Uncategorizable Work by an Intellectually Restless Man

Ron Arad, The Fiddler, 1991, Edition by One Off, Photo courtesy Ron Arad Associates.

Ron Arad, Rover Chair, 1981, salvaged car seat mounted on a steel frame, edition by One Off, Photo courtesy Ron Arad Associates.

Ron Arad, Chair By Its Cover, 1989, Edition by One Off, Photo: Tom Vack, courtesy Ron Arad Associates.

Ron Arad, Tom Vac, 1997, Edition by Ron Arad Studio, Italy, Photo courtesy Ron Arad Associates.

 

Barbican
Silk Street
+ 020 7638 4141
London
Ron Arad: Restless
February 18-May 16, 2010

Bold, experimental and inventive, Ron Arad defies categorisation. This internationally acclaimed London-based maverick is variously described as a designer, architect and artist. Ron Arad: Restless is the first major exhibition of Arad’s work in the UK.

Spanning three decades, the show traces the development of Arad’s designs from his early post-punk approach, assembling works from readymade parts to his technologically-advanced sculptural objects made of highly polished metals. Featuring a dramatic installation design by Ron Arad Associates using the latest LED display technology, the exhibition also includes architectural designs and instantly recognisable mass-produced objects.

Kate Bush , Head of Art Galleries, Barbican Centre, said: “Ron Arad first hit the headlines in 1981 with the opening of his now legendary studio and workshop One Off in Covent Garden and he has been an unstoppable and uncategorisable force in world design ever since.“

Bringing together over 120 works, Ron Arad: Restless features some of Arad’s most celebrated pieces. Rover Chair,1981, a car seat salvaged from a scrapyard mounted on a steel frame, that famously caught the eye of Jean Paul Gaultier, and catapulted Arad firmly into the design world’s Hall of Fame; Well-Tempered Chair,1986, a reinterpretation of the overstuffed club chair using four thin sheets of tempered steel bent and held together by wing nuts; and animated in the gallery space Reinventing the Wheel, 1996. Inspired by a children’s toy featuring a globe floating inside a sphere, this bookcase has a wheel-within-a-wheel construction and can easily be rolled around while the shelves remain level.

Movement, play and an element of risk or surprise are key characteristics of Arad’s work: chairs rock or roll; shelves flex and sway, spiral-shaped vases bounce and lights coil in a snake-like motion. For this exhibition, Arad’s team have devised special mechanisms for some of the works to demonstrate their range of motion but also to bring them to life. The exhibition culminates in a large area featuring Arad’s own ping pong table, made from stainless steel, surrounded by a wide selection of manufactured chairs ranging from modular sofas and screw stools to sprung chaises and upholstered armchairs of exaggerated forms. Visitors are encouraged to experience the works, sit or recline or play a game of table tennis.

Arad continues to expand the boundaries of design by constantly experimenting with new technologies. For Swarovski, Arad designed Lolita, 2004, a chandelier made up of 1050 LED lights embedded within 2,100 crystals and the first to have its own mobile phone number. Text messages appear at the top of the chandelier and wind down the ribbon curves, creating the impression that it is slightly spinning. Lo-Rez-Dolores-Tabula-Rasa, 2007 is a table made of a thin sheet of Corian illuminated with images using 22,000 fibre-optic pixels. It is displayed in a dark room for full effect. The exhibition also features a specially designed set of eight floor-to-ceiling LED screens. Dramatically placed near the entrance of all the upper galleries, each screen transmits a changing display of words and images relating to the surrounding works, including digital renderings of chairs or quirky facts about the design process and materials used.

Architectural projects featured include the rotating mountain-top restaurant and gallery Les Diablarets, Gstaad, Swizerland; the recently opened Mediacite shopping complex, Liege, Belgium; and the Design Museum in Holon, Israel. Due to open February 2010, this dramatic new building, Arad’s most ambitious yet, is characterised by five bands of Corten Steel which undulate dynamically around the museum’s internal spaces.

Highlighting the significance of process and the innovative use of materials in Arad’s work, the exhibition also offers an insight into the development of objects from initial idea to end product. Rarely seen prototypes, from different stages of the design process, are displayed together with finished works. Short films including early footage of Arad at work in the studio or pieces being manufactured are shown. The exhibition also includes two workshop settings which feature pieces part-way through the production process, offering visitors a real sense of how the works are crafted and made.

Over the past two decades, Arad has collaborated with leading manufacturers, including Alessi, Capellini, Moroso, Notify and Vitra, successfully adapting his designs to affordable materials and industrial techniques. Initially a one-off piece made of sprung steel, Bookworm (1993), a flexible yet sturdy curving shelf with built-in bookends, was later produced in plastics by Kartell in three different lengths that could be endlessly combined and arranged. Whilst Vitra produces the now classic, moulded plastic stacking chair, Tom Vac (1999), the chair was originally conceived for a sculpture entitled Domus Totem consisting of a stack of 100 chairs made for the 1997 Milan Furniture fair.

Born in Tel Aviv, Israel in 1951, Arad attended the Jerusalem Academy of Art. He moved to London in 1973 and studied with Peter Cook and Bernard Tschumi at the Architecture Association. He launched his career in the early 1980s with the opening of One Off, the Covent Garden studio he created with his business pa rtner Caroline Thorman . In 1989 they established, Ron Arad Associates, an architecture and design practice, with One Off merging as part of the company by 1993.

In 1994 Arad first taught a class in furniture design at the Royal College of Art, London. Three years later he was appointed Professor of Furniture and Industrial Design. He merged the two departments to create the Department of Design Products, a more open, interdisciplinary and experimental programme, which has had an enormous influence on a new generation of designers, including Paul Cocksedge, Peter Marigold and members of Troika and rAndom International.

In 1987 Arad participated in two important exhibitions and attracted the attention of the art world: Nouvelles Tendances: Les avant-gardes de la fin du XXème siècle at the Centre Pompidou in Paris and Documenta VIII in Kassel. Recent solo exhibitions include Timothy Taylor Gallery, London, 2008; Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2008; Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2009 and Ben Brown Fine Arts, Hong Kong, 2009.

Ron Arad, Lolita Chandelier, 2004.

Ron Arad, Oh, the farmer and the cowman should be friends, 2009, Corten and mirror-polished stainless stee, l5.5m wide, 3.5 m high, 40cm deep, Courtesy Ron Arad Associates.

 

David Bailey, Ron Arad, July 2008.

 

Ron Arad, FPE (Fantastic, Plastic, Elastic), 1997, Aluminum and injection-molded polypropylene plastic sheet, 31-¼ x 17 x 22", Manufactured by Kartell, Italy, Photo courtesy of Ron Arad Associates, London.

Ron Arad's Pastiche of Disciplines: Industrial Design, One-offs and Lamps

Ron Arad, D-Sofa. Prototype, 1994, Patinated, painted, oxidized stainless steel and mild steel, 38-3/16" x 7' 1-13/16" x 35 7/16", Prototype by One Off, London, Photo by Eric and Petra Hesmerg. Courtesy of Private Collection, USA.

Ron Arad, Well Tempered Chair. Prototype. 1986, Sprung stainless steel and wing nuts, 31-1/2 x 39-3/8 x 31-1/2", Prototype by Vitra GmbH, Germany, Photo courtesy of Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany.

Ron Arad, Southern Hemisphere. 2007, Patinated aluminum, 51 x 52 x 52", Edition by The Gallery Mourmans, The Netherlands, Photo by Eric and Petra Hesmerg. Courtesy of Private Collection, Maastricht.

Ron Arad, Large Bookworm, 1993, Tempered sprung steel and patinated steel, 49' 2-9/16" x 13", Edition by One Off/Ron Arad Associates, London, Photo courtesy of Ron Arad Associates, London.

 

Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
212-708-9400
New York
The International Council of The Museum
of Modern Art Gallery, sixth floor
Ron Arad: No Discipline
August 2-October 19, 2009

Among the most influential designers of our time, Ron Arad (British, b. Israel 1951) stands out for his daredevil curiosity about form, structure, technology, and materials and for the versatile nature of his work, which spans industrial design, hand-crafted studio pieces, sculpture, architecture, and mixed media installations. Arad’s relentless experimentation with the use of materials of all kinds — from steel, aluminum, and bronze, to thermoplastics, crystals, fiberoptics, and LEDs — as well as his radical reinterpretation of some of the most established archetypes in furniture — from armchairs and rocking chairs to desk lamps and chandeliers — has put him at the forefront of contemporary design. The exhibition will feature approximately 140 works, including design objects, architectural models, and videos.

Most of the objects featured in the exhibition will be displayed in a monumental structure specially designed by Arad and developed with Michael Castellana from Ron Arad Associates, and loaned to this exhibition. Cage sans Frontières (Cage Without Frontiers) is a Corten steel structure — 126.5 feet (38.5 meters) long, spanning the whole length of the Museum’s International Council gallery, and over 16 feet (5 meters) tall — in the shape of a figure eight. The structure consists of 240 cells that are each lined with stainless steel. The dramatic installation will rely on its scale and on the reflectivity of the inner walls of the cells to create a ricocheting effect that will be tamed and contained by the regular rhythm of the Cage sans Frontières’s geometry.

The exhibition celebrates Arad’s spirit by combining industrial design, one-off pieces, architecture, and architectural installation. Objects are grouped in families whose common thread is the exploration, sometimes over years, of a form, a material, a technique, or a structural idea, such as the exploration of elasticity and surprise that began with the Well Tempered Chair (1986) — a chair made of 4 sprung sheets of steel held together by wing-nuts that come together to suggest the archetypical shape of an armchair. Another example is the Volumes series (1988), which comprises, among others, his renowned Big Easy (1988) and its various iterations, among them the Soft Big Easy (1990) and the painted fiberglass New Orleans (1999), or the more recent Bodyguards series (2008), in which the same initial shape in blown aluminum is differently intersected by imaginary planes and cut to reveal ever-changing personalities, from a rocking chair to a stern bodyguard-like sculpture.

The exhibition will feature Arad’s most celebrated historical pieces, including the Rover Chair (1981), the Concrete Stereo (1983), and the Bookworm bookshelves (1993), along with more recent experiments such as the lamp PizzaKobra (2008) and the latest reincarnation of the Volumes series, the armchair duo Even the Odd Balls? (2009).

Over the past 25 years, ever since he founded his studio together with long-time professional partner Caroline Thorman, Arad has produced an outstanding array of innovative objects, spanning from limited editions to almost unlimited series, from carbon fiber armchairs to polyurethane bottle racks. A designer and an architect, trained at the Bezalel Academy of Art in Jerusalem and at London’s Architectural Association, he has also designed memorable spaces, some plastic and tactile, others digital and ethereal. A few notable examples are the lobby of the Tel Aviv Opera House (1994-98), Yohji Yamamoto’s showroom in Tokyo (2003), and the Holon Design Museum, currently under construction, which will be represented in the exhibition with models and videos.

To give life to his ideas, Arad relies on the computer’s computational latitude as much as on his own exquisite drafting skills, and on the most advanced automated manufacturing techniques as well as on the soldering apparatus in his collaborators’ metal workshops. Often, his works are combinations of high and low technologies, such as his Lolita chandelier for Swarovski, a lovingly crafted crystal chandelier that can receive and display text messages. Idiosyncratic and surprising, and also very beautiful, Arad’s designs communicate the joy of invention, pleasure and humor, and pride in the display of their technical and constructive skills.

The exhibition is curated by Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator, and Patricia Juncosa Vecchierini, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art

Ron Arad, Blown Out Of Proportion (B.O.O.P.) Vase. 1998, Superplastic aluminum, 7' 8" x 59-½" x 15", Edition by The Gallery Mourmans, The Netherlands, Photo Thibault Jeanson.

Ron Arad, Lolita, 2004, Crystals and LEDs, H. 59" top-plate diam. 43-1/4", Edition by Swarovski, Photo courtesy of Ron Arad Associates, London.

Ron Arad, Bookworm 8008, 1993, Translucent, colored injection-molded PVC plastic, 7-½" x 27' 8-7/8" x 7 ½", Manufactured by Kartell, Italy, Photo courtesy of Ron Arad Associates, London.