40 Years of Lost City Arts
Jim Elkind, founder Lost City Arts—of one of the most influential design galleries in New York City—has design in his DNA. Elkind grew up in a modernist house full of mid-century modern furniture and spent many weekends traveling into New York with his mother, visiting museums and exploring the city. He fondly recalls her pointing up at the skyscrapers and their architectural details, encouraging and instilling in him a curiosity about his surroundings and an attention to detail that would go on to shape his future career.
The idea to open a gallery originally came to Elkind during a visit to the annual juried art show at University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he attended college. The vetted show featured several hundred artists, many of whom, he realized, were extremely talented but would never make it into the mainstream art world. Taking a page from his entrepreneur father’s book, Elkind imagined opening a gallery in New York called the Gallery of the Unknown Artist where he would feature work by up-and-coming artists from universities around the country.
Serge Mouille, born in Paris in 1922, began his education as a silversmith at the School of Applied Arts in Paris. A brilliant student, Mouille began teaching at the school shortly after graduation but his career was put on hold during World War II as he fought in the French Resistance. Following the war, Mouille became interested in automobiles, and he, along with Pierre Pothier and Jean-Pierre Darnat, designed the sleek stainless steel Zebra car in 1952. Sadly the car was never mass-produced.
Mouille then turned his attention to founding his own metalworking atelier. Tired of the popularity of Italian lighting which he found over-complicated, Mouille sought to modernize French lighting designs. Inspired by the curvaceous forms of both the female body and the organic world, he utilized voluptuous lines and the color black to create designs of stylistic harmony. His lighting designs are also kinetic works that define space, a feature that has been compared to the work of his contemporary, Alexander Calder. With a strict desire to reject mass-production, each of Mouille’s designs were handcrafted by expert metalsmiths at the atelier.
Mouille’s works garnered praise and in 1956 his pieces were shown in the gallery of Steph Simon alongside designs by Isamu Noguchi and Charlotte Perriand. In 1958, Mouille was invited to exhibit his work at the World’s Fair in Brussels, where his lighting designs won the Diploma of Honor. Experimenting with florescent lighting in 1962, Mouille created his Colonnes collection of floor lights, which utilized the simple lines and the materiality of neon. His work soon became so popular, that the demand outpaced his ability to fulfill orders. Forced to consider mass-production, but instead of sacrificing hand-made quality he chose to close his atelier in 1964. Mouille spent the rest of his life teaching silversmithing at the School of Applied Arts. Mouille died in 1988.
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