We can and I firmly believe we should, preserve evidence of the past, not as a pattern for sentimental imitation but as nourishment for the creative spirit of the present.

Alexander Girard

Textiles & Objects Shop

“Unusual & Sympathetic Decorative Objects, Selected by Alexander Girard”

Alexander Girard’s Textiles & Objects Shop opened in New York City on May 22, 1961, with the financial backing of Herman Miller. The idea for the shop grew out of Girard's and his wife Susan’s fervent collecting of folk art, particularly from South America. Finding themselves with an abundance of inventory, they decided to open a shop and also sell Girard-designed textiles, toys, decorative home goods and the designs of other artists he loved (such as the dolls of Marilyn Neuhart). Despite the passionate vision of the shop, it was a near-immediate financial failure, due largely to a lack of consumer fanfare. Public taste was still very much in line with the conservative 1950s and the radical shifts in American culture hadn’t yet happened. Girard’s designs are enduring in their prescience for the modern, playful, curious spirit that was to come.

These photos were taken by Charles Eames on the day the shop opened. Eames stools, Girard textile panels and pillows, wooden Mexican dolls and Marilyn Neuhart dolls can all be seen on display. The shop was also revolutionary in its design, featuring glass shelving and fabric panels that divided the long, narrow space. 

That is the real mark of discrimination, to be able to see something out of context, to take something because one sees it and wants to see it again. And the proof comes when one does see it again and finds that it looks even better than it did the first time.

Alexander Girard

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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