Edited by Stanley Abercrombie -- Interior Design, 1/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
Barcelona Floral Architecture
edited by Roser Bofill i Soliguer
Barcelona, Spain: Stichting Kunstboek, $85
144 pages, 150 color illustrations
Barcelona is the home of some of the world's most fascinating architecture and interiors, from medieval to modern. The Spanish city is also home to the Escole d'Art Floral de Catalunya, perhaps second only to Japan's Ikebana School of floral design in both prestige and imagination. Celebrating the Barcelona school's 25th anniversary, this portfolio of photographs by Blai Carda shows work in the context of the city's finest surroundings. With not a single vase in sight, these are not ordinary flower arrangements but rather artworks with plants as the medium. Astonishingly attenuated towers of rice stand in the 14th-century Plaça del Rei. An "audience" of sunflowers sits expectantly in the 1847 Gran Teatre del Liceu. A mobile of roses and rushes spirals down from the ceiling of Antoni Gaudí's 1914 Parc Güell. A cube of wheat and dahlias graces Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's 1929 German pavilion. And curving planes of paper, studded with amaryllis flowers, mirror the peaked skylights at Josep Lluìs Sert's 1975 Fundació Joan Miró. The combinations always result in new, unexpected visual delights.
Ceramics in America 2007
edited by Robert Hunter
Milwaukee: Chipstone Foundation, distributed by Antique Collectors' Club, $65
314 pages, 350 color illustrations
Rather than focusing on the year cited in the title, the annual Ceramics in America books offer new scholarship with a long perspective, taking in the whole history of American production. The 2006 volume, for example, covered ceramic representations of Uncle Tom's Cabin, African-American slave pottery, and 17th-century ceramic tobacco pipes. The latest edition focuses on America's first pottery factory. Gousse Bonnin and George Anthony Morris's American China Manufactory of Philadelphia made blue-and-white soft-paste porcelain from 1770 to 1772: fruit baskets, sauceboats, pickle dishes, and cups and saucers. Only 19 of these objects are known to exist, and all are shown here along with fragments excavated from the site.
The volume also contains four essays on contemporaneous European sources. As a whole, it's a thorough and beautifully presented picture of a fledgling artistic enterprise on the eve of the Revolutionary War.
by Wendy Goodman and Hutton Wilkinson
New York: Harry N. Abrams, $75
368 pages, 350 color illustrations
Interior Design Hall of Fame member Tony Duquette's residential clients included Elizabeth Arden, Doris Duke, J. Paul Getty, Norton Simon, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Duquette also designed spectacular homes for himself and his wife, among them Dawnridge, a house in Los Angeles, and Sortelegium, a 150-acre ranch in the hills above Malibu. Then there's his furniture for Elsie de Wolfe, who discovered him in the 1930's; film sets for The Great Ziegfeld; Tony Award–winning costumes for Camelot; and tiny birdcages for Norma Shearer's wigs in Marie Antoinette. He designed jewelry for Bergdorf-Goodman and fancy-dress costumes made with every possible material, from rare jewels to cardboard. In 1951, he became the first American to be given a solo exhibition at the Musée du Louvre in Paris.
Yet, until now, Duquette's extraordinary talent, flamboyant personality, and uninhibited taste had never been documented in book form—except for a Christie's catalog for the 2001 sale of objects from his estate. Wendy Goodman, design editor at New York magazine, and Hutton Wilkinson, who apprenticed with Duquette as a teenager and is now president of his namesake firm, have done a fine job of organizing a potentially overwhelming amount of visual and anecdotal material. "Beauty, not luxury, is what I value," Duquette is quoted as proclaiming. Dominick Dunne, in a felicitous little foreword, says of Duquette: "He always made me gasp."
What They're Reading. . .
Principal at Susan Becher Public Relations
by Eca de Queiroz
Manchester, U.K.: Carcanet Press, $43
Like all good public-relations professionals, Susan Becher likes to keep up to date. At any given moment, her reading table is piled with newspapers and design magazines. Her delight, however, is the novel, and her latest is this Portuguese 19th-century classic. Eca de Queiros captures the confusion of European culture as it shifts its gaze from the landed elite to the industrial age. Initially, the protagonist assumes he can change the world for the better but, when politics keeps him from achieving his serious goals, he retreats into the dabbling of a dilettante. One of the ways the author conveys this shift is in his sumptuous descriptions of decor. "He really paints a picture of rooms as a metaphor for decadence," Becher says. While most designers will revel in these passages, the book's irony is a lesson on keeping connoisseurship from veering into excess. —Deborah Wilk