Program February – March 2022
Formes Utiles: A new generation of French designers
JANINE ABRAHAM AND DIRK JAN ROL
January 24 – March 12, 2022
Extended Until March 26, 2022
…forms that manifest the agreement between the constraints of the material and the aspirations of the spirit are useful (and beautiful). - André Hermant, 1959.
The mission of the organisation Formes Utiles, created by the Union des Artistes Modernes (UAM), was to introduce the public to new everyday furniture and objects of quality, of beautiful and functional forms. Founded in 1949 by UAM president René Herbst, André Hermant, Charlotte Perriand and Jacques Dumond, it pursued the ideals and objectives of the 1930s generation that pioneered Modernity in France. After WWII, most young French designers and interior architects were trained by the pioneers of Modernity through schools and design studios, and consequently they readily took up the modernist doctrine, continuing a lineage of ideals concerning technological advancements and innovations in new materials. But above all else, these designers excelled alongside the development of the furniture industry, then booming in France.
Every year, as part of the Salon des Arts Ménagers (SAM) in Paris, the Formes Utiles exhibitions of furniture, lighting and everyday objects continued to champion the modernist concepts developed by these Modernist pioneers:
- The relationship between form and function;
- The relationship between form and structure;
- The notion of functionality;
- The sculptural qualities and significance of form.
Naturally, these concepts influenced the designers’ approach for designing mass-produced furniture and organising space as though they were architects. They approached both disciplines the same way, with the same philosophy, looking at furniture as architecture in itself, according to the same modernist structural principles. Any notion of superfluous decoration or ornamentation was automatically eliminated in favor of purely functional concepts; always under-pinned by a design of great simplicity in the interest of economy of means, necessary for mass production at minimal cost.
Demisch Danant’s presentation of Formes Utiles in the Program February – March 2022 exhibition largely contributes to the furthering of the study of what was at the vanguard of French design. A ‘minimalist and functional style’ emerged from these productions. Towards the end of the 1950s, this style found an international echo, particularly in Scandinavia and the US, while maintaining a particularly French quality linked to its deeply rooted tradition of decorative arts and craftsmanship.
The aim of Demisch Danant’s exhibition is to reveal the spirit of Formes Utiles through a rigorous selection of works that follows the criteria outlined above. A certain radicality of design is tempered by the use of natural materials, such as wood, often combined with industrial products such as metal, glass or Formica. Intelligently and efficiently manufactured, the objects displayed reflect and express the use of innovative techniques of the time. The elegance of these creations is often the result of a perfect mastery of proportion and of the balance between form and function.