Exhibition: “Alexander Girard. A Designer’s Universe” at Vitra Design Museum

Alexander Girard with Ray and Charles Eames ©Collage / Oriane Baud

The exhibition “Alexander Girard. A Designer’s Universe” shows interior and unseen photos of textile designer Alexander Girard. A collection in the Vitra Design Museum

For a meal to be truly excellent, it must also be a feast for the eyes. That may seem obvious to us today, but wasn’t always a matter of course – in fact, it wasn’t until the modern age, the 20th Century to be exact, that eating was again acknowledged as an aesthetic pleasure.

The visual aspect of a restaurant experience doesn’t stop at the arrangement on our plates, however. These days, it’s the interior and overall atmosphere that make for the perfect dining experience. And currently there are a number of restaurants located in cities like New York, London, and Berlin paving the way and proving that great cuisine and good design can go hand in hand. So, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Vitra Design Museum has devoted their current exhibition to this topic: Through the 22nd of January, foodies and design lovers alike will have the opportunity to be inspired by Alexander Girard. A Designer’s Universe.

One of the most renowned interior designers of the 20th Century, Girard was born in New York in 1907 and raised in Florence, Italy. He developed a passion for textiles early on and his body of work reflects his cosmopolitan roots: American mid-century modern meets ornamental, folkloric art. Among his many travels, frequent trips to Mexico, India, and Egypt (just to name a few destinations) most definitely sparked his interest in other cultures, international cuisine, and restaurant interior design.

The exhibition lets us take a peek into Girard’s expansive archive, one that includes thousands of artifacts and objects. At the heart of the curatorial concept lies his design contributions to La Fonda del Sol, a Latin-American restaurant that was located in the lobby of the Time Life Building in New York from 1960 until 1971. From the colorful porcelain dishes to the customized matchboxes, Girard did not overlook a single detail when it came to the interior. At the restaurant’s peak of popularity, it hosted illustrious guests including Andy Warhol and became a pilgrimage site for the New York scene.

In 1966, Girard became involved in a second restaurant project: L’Etoile, a French restaurant located in the Sherry-Netherlands Hotel on Fifth Avenue. Inside, lounge chairs in the colors of the French Tricolore sat at the sides of daisy-shaped bistro tables. Although the interior was certainly more austere, it was no less opulent than his previous design for La Fonda del Sol: both spaces are embellished with wall coverings, mirrors, and geometric forms.

La Fonda del Sol and L’Étoile both perfectly capture the charm of the Swinging Sixties – and yet do so while also radiating that special flair that comes with Girard’s splendid creations. A tour through this exhibition offers the unique chance to step back in time and imagine a night at one of these buzzing, historical eateries.

Girard (1907–1993) was one of the most influential textile designers and interior designers of the 20th Century. Among other projects, he designed the legendary restaurants “La Fonda del Sol” (1960) and “L’Etoile” (1966) in New York, which Andy Warhol frequented.

The exhibition Alexander Girard. A Designer’s Universe runs until January 22nd at the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein. A special event, “La Fonda del Sol – Exhibition Tour and Dinner”, will take place on December 15th at 6pm. Tickets cost €52 per person (dinner included).  

More information can be found here on their Instagram Account.

After spending a gap year in Paris, Jessica Aimufua set her heart on Berlin, starting her art history and cultural studies undergrad in 2012. As a keen observer and critical thinker she developed an urge to express herself inventively at an early age. In both English and German she writes about contemporary culture and modern aesthetics, with a focus on film, fashion and art . At hey woman! she writes, edits and translates.