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Last Wednesday, Galerie Perrotin opened “Unrealized Projects,” an exhibition consisting of projects envisioned by Pierre Paulin but never produced during his lifetime being either too farsighted or expensive at the time. Perrotin’s uptown gallery on 909 Madison is displaying these pieces together with videos from artists: Iván Argote, ERRÓ, Jesper Just, and Xavier Veilhan, creating a playful dialogue and setting. Son Benjamin Paulin and wife Maia Paulin were present for the opening (Maia was Pierre’s collaborator for almost 40 years). Together, with Benjamin’s wife, Alice Lemoine, they run the design firm Paulin, Paulin, Paulin.
The show, on view through August 19, acts as a sequel to last year’s at the gallery’s location in Paris and is concurrent with his retrospective taking place at Centre Pompidou this summer until August 22. Designs featured include limited-editions by Paulin, Paulin, Paulin, notably La Déclive from 1966, Dos à dos & Face à face from 1968; Jardin à la française armchairs, pieces made specially for the Palais d’Iéna in Paris in 1985; Tapis-siège for the unreleased Herman Miller project in 1970; Rosace coffee table, 1971; Diwan rug, 1992; as well as Table Cathédrale from 1981.
Paulin is currently amongst the most celebrated designers in France with a record number of retrospectives and books devoted to his oeuvre. His colorful iconic objects heralded a new society being shaped by the massive cultural, economic and technological changes of the early 1960s. Paulin’s furniture followed the forms of the human body as it was freeing itself at that time of social constraints, especially through events such as those of May 1968. His rigorous research into new materials (elasticated fabrics and polyurethane foam, for example), associated with innovative construction methods placing wellbeing at the heart of the process, allowed all kinds of possibilities, creating a new malleable sense of space.
Paulin’s travels in Scandinavia (1951) and Japan (1963) made a lasting impact on his work and aesthetic approach, and created a radical artistic stance that joined formal modularity with sensuous functionalism, also known today as the functional furniture movement in design. He applied this aesthetic to the private apartments of President Georges Pompidou at the presidential palace, the Elysée, in 1971, to name one of his countless prestigious commissions realized.
The official names of his creations evoke inventory or industrial models numbers, F560, F437, F582, F577, but more well known pieces have descriptive titles such as Mushroom (1960), Orange Slice (1960), Ribbon (1966), Tongue (1967)—the three latter works being acquired by MoMA New York from 1967.