Little did I know two years ago, when I met the extravagant Mitchell Wolfson Jr, (Micky to his friends) in Paris, that I would end up being so impressed by his museum, the Wolfsonian, in Miami Beach. I was there last week to visit the current show, « Modern Dutch design » curated by Silvia Barisione and could not leave the place, so fascinated was I by every single object and book.
The Wolfsonian has « a mustidisciplinary approach looking at objects as both agents and expressions of change ». Mostly a design museum in that it holds many pieces of furniture, posters and pieces of decorative arts, the 7 floor high building is especially fascinating because every single object, photograph or painting is shown there for a purpose.
Micky Wolfson, who also founded the « The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda arts », has devoted his 180 000 objects collection to the 1850-1950 period in Italy, Holland, Germany, Great Britain, Japan and the US. It is now part of Florida University. Every piece he finds at antique dealers or at the flea market, are then researched and documented in depth by the museum curators and exhibited with all the background items, including many books. His mix of a fabulous eye for discovering curios and huge culture has made miracles.
And that is what fascinated me, the brilliant background research around each piece. I was lucky to be toured around the Modern Dutch design show by Silvia Barisione a curator from Italy, who used to work at the Wolfsoniana, in Genoa, another museum founded in 2005 by Micky Wolfson.
She aknowledged the fun of finding objects as late as last summer in Amsterdam to complete the show which has unveiled many rare pieces that Dutch museums wish they could own. Such as a colonial desk with stool in Javanese teak from the 1930’s or the extraordinary portfolio stand by Theo Neuhuys in mahogany. Calendars dating back to 1899 by Carel Adolph Lion Cachet are good testimony of « popular art » as are the advertisements for Delftsche Slaolie (Delft salad oil) which are beautifully designs.
Each chair, lamp, clock , suspension is tracked back to the building it was designed for, the liner it stood on, the conference room it decorated. The furniture for the living room by Michel de Klerk with its mahogany feet that look like clogs…Batik lamps, but also mailboxes, and wrapping boxes from Metz & Co are all fabulous examples of beginning of the 20 th centuriy’s designs.
The 1928 Amsterdam Olympiade is present through vases and ashtrays. A table lamp in the shape of a cigar comes from the Hajenius cigar shop. A brass and bronze gate from the Aniem building in Utrecht tells a complete story. As does the project for low income housings in Amsterdam in 1917 by Michel de Klerk.
In mixing daily life utensils and exceptional furniture, the exhbition becomes lively and fascinating. The cover of the catalog is made of a record cover by Chris Lebeau in 1928 with exceptional design.
And the inside covers show projects for the decoration of airplanes. The world of Dutch trade and expansion in the East is wonderfully represented here through objects and furniture. I wish the show was coming to Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris … The place is filled with whimsical art pieces and one leaves the museum on Washington avenue with a big smile. (until June 11, 2017)
My visit went on to the Margulies collection in Wynwood where the Kiefer and Kounellis pieces are outstanding and to the Perez museum with a large kinetic Le Parc show. The restaurant is a delightful place to have lunch at. And after visiting the Emilio Sanchez’ show at Lowe Art Museum at Miami university, I jumped into the pool of the Biltmore hotel, the largest one in the United States…with a 1929 flair…
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