Gerrit Rietveld „The revolution of space“ at the Vitra Design Museum

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Article from the 2012-05-16

The Vitra Design Museum presents the exposition „Gerrit Rietveld – The revolution of space“ from the 17th of May until the 16th of September 2012. Vitra honors one of the most important designers and architects of the 20th century with it.

Gerrit Rietveld soon became a member of the „De Stijl“ movement surrounding Theo van Doesburg and Piet Mondrian, after his apprenticeship as carpenter. His works from 1918 on do clearly mirror the artistic idols of this group. Objects and constructions were transformed into abstract compositions out of lines and surfaces by Rietveld, focusing on black, white, grey and the primary colours yellow, red and blue. However, he still developed his legendary red-blue chair in 1918 initially without its distinctive, name-owing colours – these only came in 1923. Rietvelds first architectural work, the legendary Rietveld-Schöder-House, only came in 1923.

Searching for possibilities of further developing his radical aesthetic ideas, Rietveld soon separated from the “De-Stijl” aesthetic and mainly experimented with innovative materials, among them aluminium and plywood, until the end of the 1930s. Out of this, he created further surprising furniture variations, such as the Zig Zag Chair (about 1923). After 1945, Rietveld focused on architecture and designed prestigious buildings such as the Netherlands pavilion on the biennial terrain in Venice. At the last the great “De Stijl” retrospective in the New York MoMa in 1952/53 ensured him international recognition as one of the pioneers of modern design.

The exposition in the Vitra Design Museum is the first larger retrospective about Gerrit Rietveld in Germany since 1996. There is an all-including overview about the creation of the Netherlands with about 320 exhibits – among them furniture, models, paintings, photographs, films and about 100 original drawings and plans. Moreover it also includes comparable works of contemporaries such as Theo van Doesburg, Bart van der Leck, Le Corbusier as well as Marcel Breuer and illuminates Rietveld in the context and exchange with other trends of modern times.

If one looks a bit closer at Rietveld’s works regarding new retrospectives about his creations, it is proven that his works are surprisingly current and modern in many facets. His urban plans for example, act more time-adapted than many radical utopias of modern times, since they are based on social aspects instead of on dogmas. And with his series of self-construction furniture of the 1930s and 1940s, Rietveld even introduced today’s ideas of “Do-it-yourself”-trends and Open Design into modern times.

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