Événement : Design et Merveilleux, de la nature à l’ornement

Although the exhibition proposed by the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Saint Etienne (42) is visible since the 1er December 2018, the event is today to be appreciated through the prism of the Biennale of design that shakes the metropolis since 21 last March. The occasion for us to return on the last days of an exhibition tracing the history of the ornament in the discipline.

"Design and Wonder": a chimerical title that encourages us to imagine fantastic furniture, between sensitive objects and works of art. Equally wonderful, the mention that accompanies this title specifies the course of this exhibition - fruit of the collaboration between the Pompidou Center and the MAMC of Saint Etienne -, and brings us back to the pomp of Antiquity and the gilding of Art Nouveau. .

From the beginning, the ornament has a dialogue with nature, magnifying its arabesques in human constructions. Often accompanied by a work of goldsmith, which constituted a large part of the decorations before the twentieth century tends to fade under the weight of new logics of production. «Kitsch», "Old-fashioned" et "Exceeded", ornament no longer has a place in contemporary developments. A statement that will last until the 1980 years, period when the flourishes will resume their place of choice under the impetus of the Milanese group called "Memphis". This is where the story told by the curators of the exhibition, Marie-Ange Brayer and Martine Dancer-Mourès, begins.


Gathering a hundred works, the exhibition is divided into several chapters: Nature as an ornament, Fractals, arabesques, Ornament and digital, The marvelous et evanescence. The whole is gathered around a cabinet of curiosity highlighting the correspondence between design and nature.
A thematic itinerary in which the viewer first discovers works that literally incorporate natural elements into their design. The visitor is then confronted with Bench Animali domestici made by Andrea Branzi in 1985 - consisting of a lacquered wooden seat and a back made of irregular branches of work - as well as Fallen Tree designed by the French designer Benjamin Graindorge 2011 whose seat branched branches, degree zero ornament as a natural inspiration. The commissioners then take an interest in the figure of the primitive repetition where we discover the Diamond Chair from the nendo studio (2008) which, thanks to a digital design, uses the fractals of the snowflake. The walk continues with the motif of the arabesque, present in Islamic art, medieval works or Art Nouveau. These curves and counter-curves also inspired the great names of contemporary creation as Frank Gehry whose chair Cross Check, designed in 1992, is here presented. Composed of a single band wrapped in space, the seat is an architectural feat and offers a sculptural interpretation of the arabesque.

The following steps slowly move away from this literal interpretation of nature-inspired ornament to look at freer interpretations, anchored in a contemporary era. So in the section Ornament and digital, the design enthusiast is confronted with works made with digital technologies that give ornament a new dimension. We thus find the C2 Solid Chair (2004) signed Patrick Jouin realized thanks to rapid prototyping and inspired by biological processes. Still in a more conceptual destination, the event immerses us into a wonderful universe through iconoclastic approaches to ornamentation. The various books are thus presented in resonance with the film Virtual Interiors produced in 2013 by Marcel Wanders and proposing a utopian place in which time has no influence on the architectural environment. The visit ends with the theme of evanescence, quintessence of the encounter between nature and artifice, where the famous Miss Blanche armchair Shiro Kuramata's dialogue with Alisa Andrasek's digital prints on paper.

A journey through the history of design where dialogue between art and everyday life, nature and marvel.

To learn more, visit the site of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Saint Etienne


1) Marcel Wanders, "Bon Bon Chair", 2010. Pompidou Center, Paris - MNAM-CCI. Photo: Marcel Wanders studio © Mr. Wanders

2) View of the exhibition "Design and marvelous". Photo: Blaise Adilon, 2018.

Post your comment

  • No comment on this article.

ADC Awards

ADC-Awards-logo-2017 250-01
The most outstanding architectural achievements elected by the professional community

>> Learn more


miaw white logo ok

An International Award to the best products for architects and layout professionals

>> Learn more


5, Saulnier Street - 75009 PARIS

T: + (33) 1 42 61 61 81

F: + (33) 1 42 61 61 82

[Email protected]


my account

Mobile version