Vitra retrospective goes on show in Philadelphia
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is hosting an exhibition of products by Swiss brand Vitra to celebrate the company's American ties (+ slideshow).
The Vitra — Design, Architecture, Communication: A European Project with American Roots exhibition, which opened on Saturday, includes more than 100 products and archive materials.
Curated by Kathryn Bloom Hiesinger, the pieces were selected from the Vitra Design Museum's collection to give an overview of the company and highlight its links to the American furniture industry.
Vitra was founded in 1957 when Willi and Erika Fehlbaum began licensing furniture from American furniture brand Herman Miller for the European market with designs by Charles and Ray Eames, George Nelson and Alexander Girard.
"The Eameses view of design as the 'recognition of need,' their warning against 'stylistic excess,' and their understanding of the connections between people, ideas, and objects have served as Vitra's guiding principles ever since," said a statement from the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
These roots are represented in the exhibition by products including a plywood toy elephant by Charles and Ray Eames, a group of Alexander Girard's Wooden Dolls and George Nelson's 1948 furniture catalogue for Herman Miller.
The company's current owner and board director, Rolf Fehlbaum – who Dezeen interviewed earlier this year – joined the family business in 1977.
He launched Vitra's architecture program by commissioning British architect Nicholas Grimshaw to design new factory buildings when a substantial part of Vitra's manufacturing facilities in Weil am Rhein, Germany, were destroyed in a fire in 1981.
More projects on the campus followed: Vitra Design Museum by Frank Gehry, a fire station by Zaha Hadid, a conference pavilion by Tadao Ando, VitraHaus by Herzog & de Meuron and a factory building by SANAA.
Models and photographs of these buildings are displayed in the Architecture/Sites section of the exhibition, which also includes a Communications area dedicated to the company's advertising and graphics.
Experimental pieces from the Vitra Edition line, Ron Arad's 1986 looping steel Well-Tempered Chair and Philippe Starck's 1990 surreal WW Stool are on show alongside the brand's more recent collections.
The exhibition runs until 26 April 2015 in the Collab Gallery of the museum's Perelman Building.
Exhibition photography is by Jason Wierzbicki, courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.