Ron Arad simply defined his complex design ideology in one succinct sentence: “I am creating beauty and exposing beauty where it’s normally hidden.” In a maverick design career defined by exuberance and radical transformations of material, each work’s clearest statement is often in its function and the artist’s ability to infuse movement into seemingly stationary materials. And then Arad’s insatiable creativity is unleashed, and we as the viewer are left to behold masterpieces only he could create.
One of Arad’s earliest works, the Rover chair, established the foundation of his brash and bold design reputation we know today. Labelled at the time as “creative salvage,” Arad expressed his designs with a roughness communicated in the material selection and fabrication. In the design of the Rover chair, the seat was literally salvaged from disposed parts found in junk yards. Arad was able to see the creative potential in the discarded, like many of his artistic predecessors.
Fittingly, it was the iconic Rover chair that began his relationship with the fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier. In an often recalled story, Jean-Paul Gaultier chanced into his studio in Covent Garden in search of these chairs that would define Arad’s early aesthetic. So taken was Gaultier with the Rover chairs, he commissioned Arad to design the interior of his shop Bazaar in 1983. As one of Arad’s earliest and most significant commissions, this project allowed for exploration of new forms and introduced even more daring juxtapositions within his work.
The present lot is three unique and independent shelving units designed for for Bazaar, Jean-Paul Gaultier’s famed fashion boutique. Arad, remaining true to this architectural education, grounds these dynamic and expressive forms with function, yet the materials imbue radicalness. Glass had been a medium that Arad had explored in the early in his career and continued to incorporate into various notable works in the 1990s. These shelves encapsulated the raw and self-assured designs that epitomize Arad’s early furniture explorations.
As a designer, Arad’s work continued to evolve as he sought new outlets for his relentless creative energy to challenge. Arad left the confines of raw steel to express an aesthetic that was further informed by technology and possibilities in newer more pliable mediums. Where raw edges existed in his early designs, Arad begins to explore the complex concept of curves and arcs. For a designer fascinated with sharp edges and welds, the experiments with elliptical shapes seem to be an even greater departure. The Blo-Void 3 offered as lot 22 illustrates the fascination with materiality and translation of the brash sense of movement that dominated Arad’s designs in the 1990s. However, the incorporation of technological advances and large scale production capabilities gave the artist a new vocabulary. In the Blo-Void, a complex elliptical form was made possible with the assistance of computer generated modelling. For five years, Arad experimented with the Blo-Void subject introducing materials as varied as aluminum, resin and carbon fiber to the form. The production technique for this example was derived from an aerospace fabrication method that utilized a pressurized mold to form the polished and reflective sides from a super plastic alloy. The Blo-Void series marked the first time Arad experimented with colors in his work, as he incorporated brilliant hues in anodized aluminum to render the sides in contrast to the aluminum mesh frame.
Arad stated early in his career that “every project is an excuse for producing new artifacts.” And it is that insatiable creativity that has served as the foundation for his lengthy design career. From his early brutalist experiments in raw steel to the curvilinear forms of late, Arad challenges this design community with his continued bold and innovative designs.