Modern + Contemporary Design /25 March 2007

131

Alexander Girard

Snake occasional table
Herman Miller
USA, c. 1965
enameled steel, aluminum
20 w × 16 h in (51 × 41 cm)

During the 1960s, the snake motif appears in Girard designs, likely stemming from his connection to the Southwest desert. This particular form originated in Girard's corporate identity program for Braniff Airlines in the mid-60s. During the fabrication of this series, there were numerous prototypes and production-line cast-offs, a typical result of perfecting the manufacturing process. This table is from the collection of a staff member who worked directly with Girard and the studio. Salvaged after the project ended, the tabletop was never put into production.

provenance: Jack Tanis, Grand Rapids, MI | Private collection, Grand Rapids, MI

estimate: $10,000–15,000
result: $9,000

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Alexander Girard 1907–1993

Born in 1907 in New York to an American mother and French-Italian father, Alexander Girard and his family soon moved to Italy where he was raised in a Florentine villa surrounded by art and antiques. As a boy he filled notebooks with creative design sketches displaying an early attention to detail and interest in other cultures even imaging his own country with regional flags and unique symbolism. Inspiration from international folk art became a staple of his artistic legacy as he amassed thousands of artifacts from around the world. Girard studied architecture in Rome, London and New York as his influential and celebrated career began. 

Girard designed and directed the groundbreaking show For Modern Living at the Detroit Institute of Fine Arts in 1949, a predecessor to the Good Design shows hosted by the Museum of Modern Art in New York which he eventually participated in and juried. While living in Michigan in 1952, he was hired by friend and collaborator Charles Eames at Herman Miller eventually establishing the company’s textile division as Director of Design until 1973. In addition to his collections of fabric and wallpaper, his “Environment Enrichment Panels” promoted humanization of the corporate workplace and in 1967 he released the “Girard Group” collection of furniture.

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