From October 9, 2004, to January 17, 2005, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) will present the exhibition Glamour: Fashion, Industrial Design, Architecture. Organized by Joseph Rosa, SFMOMA Helen Hilton Raiser Curator of Architecture and Design, the exhibition will include nearly 125 objects that illustrate how the concept of glamour has been applied in three design disciplines—fashion, industrial design, and architecture—from 1945 to the present.
The concept of glamour is based on a notion of excess—the inclusion of design elements that are not tied to function—and has historically been most accepted and, indeed, glorified in the discipline of fashion, specifically in haute couture. Glamour: Fashion, Industrial Design, Architecture examines the influence of this concept in fashion and two other key design areas, industrial design and architecture. In the past, glamour has been marginalized in industrial design—the demands of the machine age dictated that form must follow function—and even reviled in architecture, where the pared–down aesthetics of modernism and minimalism have reigned since the mid–twentieth century. In more recent years, as new design and construction technologies have allowed once–excessive forms to become integral to function, glamour has become a viable style—and perhaps even the hallmark of consumer culture in the new century.
“With the dawn of the technological age, the production–based aesthetic limitations of the mechanical era are no longer in play: form needn’t follow function, and thus glamour can, and has, emerged in these manufacturing–based disciplines. These defining aspects of glamour, once considered excessive, are today, by virtue of technology, an integral component of the design itself,” states Rosa.
Glamour: Fashion, Industrial Design, Architecture traces the transformation of glamour during the last seventy years, from the civic architecture of Edward Durell Stone to the high–end couture of Gianni Versace. The exhibition begins with a historical section featuring work from the three design areas—fashion, industrial design, and architecture—as background for a larger emphasis on contemporary work. The section on fashion will include an array of couture pieces from the past and present. The industrial design section will feature a range of objects from lighting to furniture, including two luxury automobiles—the historical 1961 Jaguar E–type coupe and a 2004 Bentley Continental GT coupe. Architecture will be represented though historical photographs as well as digital renderings, installations, and models of contemporary works.
In the field of fashion, the exhibition describes how mid–century couture houses, in reaction to the fiscal restraints of the war years, tended toward an extravagant use of fabric in their designs. Taking this trend to the next level, fashion houses of the 1980s constructed an image of glamour through updated signs of opulence: complex tailoring, excessive layering, sophisticated handwork, and exotic materials and cuts.
Glamour: Fashion, Industrial Design, Architecture features works by such revered designers as Adrian, Jacques Fath, Yves Saint Laurent for Dior, Emilio Pucci, and Paco Rabanne, as well as their present–day counterparts, Karl Lagerfeld at both Chanel and Fendi, John Galliano for Dior, Christian Lacroix, Jean–Paul Gaultier, Thierry Mugler, Robert Carpucci, and Vivienne Westwood, among others.
In industrial design, the exhibition examines the tradition of glamour beginning with the high–end handmade object. Works such as William Haines’s Brentwood chair, ca. 1945, John Dickinson’s Bone Game Table, 1977, and Hans Harald Rath’s Metropolitan Opera House Chandelier, ca. 1965, are featured. Although affluence has long been associated with the ability to acquire these unique and luxurious objects, the advent of digital technology has revolutionized the idea of customization, making design objects more affordable and enabling “mass–customized” production. Contemporary design objects include Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec’s Spring Clouds shelving units, 2003, Marc Newson’s Felt Chair, 1993, the 118 WallyPower power boat, 2003, Ron Arad’s Ninarota round bed, 2002, the white–gold–and–diamond Oyster Perpetual watch by Rolex, 2003, and Vincent Van Duysen’s Cascade Chandelier for the Swarovski Crystal Palace Collection, 2003.
In architecture, the exhibition seeks to identify the roots of glamour in designs by postwar architects who eschewed modernist purity in favor of extravagant patterning and ornamentation, features then frowned upon by critics as mere decoration. Today, the aesthetic of seriality and sculptural form has been an important influence for the current generation of digitally literate architects, and new digital technologies make it possible to transform features that were once simply ornamental into elements that are integral to a building’s structure. This complexity of structure is defining a new, sophisticated architectural aesthetic.
Starting with a consideration of historical projects like Philip Johnson’s New York State Theater at Lincoln Center, 1964, Gordon Bunshaft’s Beinecke Rare Book Library at Yale University, 1963, and Morris Lapidus’s Eden Roc Hotel Lobby, Miami Beach, 1955, the exhibition moves on to look at the sophisticated aesthetic propagated by the contemporary architects in Herzog and de Meuron’s Prada Boutique in Tokyo, 2003, Bernard Tschumi’s Athletic Center at the University of Cincinnati, 2004, and Greg Lynn’s Ark of the World Museum, Costa Rica, 2006, among others.
Glamour: Fashion, Industrial Design, Architecture is accompanied by a major 192–page catalogue, published by SFMOMA in association with Yale University Press. The catalogue includes nearly 300 full–color reproductions, an introduction and essay on architecture by Joseph Rosa and additional essays by Valerie Steele (on fashion), Phil Patton (on industrial design), and Virginia Postrel (on contemporary culture). The catalogue will be available at the SFMOMA MuseumStore beginning in September 2004.
Glamour: Fashion, Industrial Design, Architecture is organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Support for this exhibition has been generously provided by Elaine McKeon, the Estates of Emily and Lewis S. Callaghan, Carolyn and Preston Butcher, and an anonymous donor, with additional funding from AT&T. Media sponsors are KQED Public Broadcasting and SFSTATION.COM.