GOTHAM’S SWISS INVASION: Switzerland wants New York City to realize there’s more to its design world than snow-capped ski chalets and fire engine red pocket knives.
This story first appeared in the February 28, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Despite sounding like a study in semantics, “Traditionally Progressive,” is a new art exhibition that celebrates the modernist slant of Switzerland’s ever-functional approach to design. With hundreds of valleys surrounded by mountains, the country is steeped in local traditions and arts, and crafts passed on from one generation to the next.
TriBeCa’s Totem Gallery is mounting a new show tonight featuring a mishmash of everyday Swiss objects, including Velcro, Swatch watches, Toblerone chocolate, mini Logitech cameras and Le Corbusier tubular steel furniture. The monthlong show is part of the Swisspeaks Festival, a citywide event playing up the country’s arts.
“Switzerland gets pigeon-holed for being about precision, banking and watchmaking. But there’s a lot more contemporary design going on, as well,” said Edwin Chong, partner at Totem. “What’s most interesting is the Swiss take a rational, functional approach to design, but it’s driven by the whole history of their design. They have a tradition of being progressive and that makes them modernist to some extent.”
Another show, “The Swiss Section,” will feature Swiss architecture by emerging and well-established names like Bernard Tschumi. It bows March 19 at the Van Alen Institute, a not-for-profit organization that focuses on design workshops, at 30 West 22nd Street.
DRESSING UP THE NORTON: The Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, the Sunshine State’s largest art institution, has spruced up with the installation of a Dale Chihuly Persian Glass Ceiling and the opening of the 45,000-square-foot Gail and Melvin Nessel Wing.
Indoors, the setting is equally grand with the opening of a new exhibition, “Picturing French Style: 300 Years of Art and Fashion.” A Chanel cocktail suit once owned by Marlene Dietrich, a 1949 Christian Dior ball gown, and the work of 18th century painters like Nicholas Lancret and Jean-Baptiste a Greuze are some of the pieces that reflect the evolution of and occasional eccentricity of French couture. Next month, Hermès will demonstrate the art of silk scarf printing in the museum’s west courtyard.
STARCK ATTACK: Trust Philippe Starck to throw a curve to the classic museum exhibit. The major retrospective about him that opened this week at the Pompidou Center in Paris has not one object or piece of furniture on display. Instead, Starck has displayed his work via film projections, with a video stream of him making funny faces and offering commentary. And he has a lot to talk about: His design universe spans household items at Target, hotels, furniture and buildings. The autobiographical spectacle runs through May 12.
FIELD WORK: Courvoisier is enjoying the fruits of its recent fashion exposure by changing its look. The cognac maker, which was the official spirit sponsor of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, providing a boozey whiff around the Bryant Park tents this month, recruited Patricia Field and David Dalrymple of House of Field to design a series of limited edition decanters for its VS and VSOP brands. The bottles are decorated with a gold animal print and antique renderings of Courvoisier’s signature CV and Napoleon logos, which will hit national markets next month.