From 2 October 2019 to 24 February 2020

Exhibition "Charlotte Perriand: Inventing a New World


Exhibition “Charlotte Perriand: Inventing a New World” 

At Fondation Louis Vuitton
From 2 October 2019 to 24 February 2020

On 2 October 2019 the Fondation opens a large-scale exhibition dedicated to Charlotte Perriand (1903-1999), a free woman, pioneer of modernity, a leading figure of the 20th century design, who contributed to the definition of a new art de vivre. To mark the twentieth anniversary of the passing of Charlotte Perriand (1903-1999), the Fondation pays tribute to her as an architect and visionary creator through an exhibition of her work exploring the links between art, architecture and design.

Visit of the exhibition

The pool level is dedicated to the invention of a modernity that oscillates between a fascination for industry, political engagement and the imperative of reconnecting with nature. Beginning in the 1920s, Charlotte Perriand imagined an “art de vivre” that broke with the codes of her era. Finding inspiration in the worlds of automobiles and cinema and rethinking the role of women, she designed strikingly modern chrome tube furniture for her Saint-Sulpice studio (1927) and began researching a project entitled “Work & Sport” (1927) to illustrate her vision of the modern apartment. An associate of Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret, she collaborated with them in designing icons such as the “chaise longue” and the “fauteuil grand confort” armchair for an “ideal apartment”, presenting them at the 1929 Salon d’Automne. 


Recognizing the drawbacks of contemporary design dedicated solely to functionality, in the 1930s she showed a greater affinity with nature and called for a renewal of living spaces. Decrying “The great misery of Paris” in terms of housing, she proposed a Maison du Jeune Homme (House for a Young Man, 1935), a space bathed in light and interspersed with art works, objets trouvés and contemporary furniture. A look at her “L’Art Brut” photographs alongside drawings by Fernand Leger reveals a nature whose force inspired her to create her first “free form” furniture with their organic curves.


Invited to Japan in 1940 to advise the country on industrial arts, she presented an exhibition called “Selection-Tradition-Creation”, a manifesto for rethinking living spaces and using traditional materials such as bamboo. She influenced an entire generation of Japanese designers while herself finding fresh sources of inspiration in the culture. Following the Liberation of France she took part in the Reconstruction, calling on artists including Fernand Leger, Pablo Picasso and Alexandre Calder to contribute to her projects. In 1947, Elle magazine named her “Minister of Reconstruction” in an imagined government of women. The rooms she designed for the Maison du Mexique (1952) and the Maison de la Tunisie (1952) student housing units in Paris illustrate her approach to minimal spaces and the intimate integration of furniture, architecture and art. Her Reconstruction was of course physical, but at the same time metaphorical, aimed at providing men and women with an indispensable sense of renewal following the trauma of war. Her window revealing a drawing by Picasso (for Paul Nelson’s “Maison Familiale Minimum”, 1947), her selection of “useful forms” for an exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (1949-1950), and the open kitchen she designed for the Unité d’Habitation housing development in Marseille, are all emblematic of the poetic function Charlotte Perriand sought to bring to living spaces.


The continuity between Art and Architecture was embodied in the exhibition “Proposal for a Synthesis of the Arts”, which opened in Tokyo in 1955. For the occasion Charlotte Perriand renewed her longstanding association with Fernand Léger and Le Corbusier, as well as with Hans Hartung and Pierre Soulages, designing a space that brings together paintings, sculptures, tapestries, furniture and architecture, thus effectively eliminating the boundaries between disciplines. Her goal was to transform the quotidian thanks to the arts by creating a new relationship with the world, enriched with new social interactions and fewer barriers and designed to awaken the senses.


This utopian proposition is championed in Paris by the Galerie Steph Simon, which offers creations emblematic of Charlotte Perriand’s distinctive art de vivre.


The home she designed in Rio illustrates the capacity for constant renewal that this indefatigable creator exhibited throughout her career, always remaining faithful to her principles: design useful forms and integrate both cutting-edge technologies and the savoir-faire of different cultures.


The upper level of the Foundation will present some lesser-known aspects of Charlotte Perriand’s work, in particular her contribution to museums and private collectors. Furniture and fittings for the Musée National d’Art Moderne (1965), the apartment of collector Maurice Jardot (1978) and the redesign of the Galerie Louise Leiris (1989) all define spaces that invite a dialogue between visitors and the works 


Interested in prefabrication from the 1930s onward, she designed the “Refuge Tonneau” (1938) with Pierre Jeanneret, both a shelter and an invitation to travel. This love of nature and the mountains explains the force and discretion of the architecture Charlotte Perriand conceived for the ski resort Les Arcs in Savoie (1967-1989). Each of the buildings is integrated in the slopes with singular ingenuity, offering occupants spaces for rest as well as contemplation of the spectacular landscapes of the Alpine peaks.


The last gallery in this remarkable itinerary invites visitor to meditate on the place of nature and the importance of dialogue among cultures with the Maison de Thé (1993), created for UNESCO and presented alongside works by Japanese artists such as Sofu Teshigahara and Isao Domoto.

Jacques Barsac, Sébastien Cherruet*, Gladys Fabre**, Sébastien Gokalp*** et Pernette Perriand-Barsac
assisted by Roger Herrera (Fondation Louis Vuitton)

Scientific advisor for reconstructions
Arthur Rüegg****

Associated Curator
Olivier Michelon (Fondation Louis Vuitton)

Jean-François Bodin

* Sébastien Cherruet is an Architecture historian.
** Gladys Fabre is an Art historian and Author.
*** Sébastien Gokalp is Director of the Musée de l’Immigration.
**** Arthur Rüegg, Author and was Full Professor of Architecture and Construction at the Department of Architecture at ETH Zurich.