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M2L Presents the Enduring Legacy of Dutch Design

(New York - May 2008) During this year’s Design Week, Michael Manes, president of the M2L Collection is again setting a new standard in defining design with Iconic Finds Holland, an off-site exhibit that shines the spotlight on the Netherlands. According to Manes, “Many people only think of lasting design coming from Italy or Scandinavia and I’m thrilled to present Dutch manufacturers, who over the years have consistently invested in great design.”

Curated by Manes, this timeline exhibit, taking place at Eve Studio in the Meatpacking District, highlights iconic modern masterworks from Holland, spanning from the twenties to today. “At M2L we believe the true test of great design is the timelessness of a product,” says Manes, “and this exhibit really expresses that type of design staying power.” Products featured include works by Rietveld, Gispen, Montis, Artifort and Arco, some of which have never before been on view in the US. It is scheduled to travel to the M2L showrooms in Boston and Washington D.C. in early fall 2008.

Ries Seijer, Rietveld’s great-grandson and the director of their foundation says, “This is our first showing in the States which is very exciting. The collection represents works from the early days of Rietveld’s designs, with the Berlin from the ¢20s, to the Steltman, which he designed in 1963, a year before his death.”

Pieces newly introduced to the American market:

Rietveld Berlin by Gerrit Rietveld

Now commonly referred to as the “Plank,” the Berlin chair was so named because it was specially designed by Rietveld and Huszar for the Berlin show exposition room in 1923. The chair features two revolutionary design concepts for its time: asymmetry and flat panel construction.

Rietveld Crate Chair Junior by Gerrit Rietveld

Gerrit Rietveld made his first crate furniture in 1934, using the crate wood that was usually used as packaging material. The Crate Chair was sold as an assembly kit and available in a variety of colors. The Junior Crate Chair is a special version by Rietveld by Rietveld, in which the original proportions have been reduced by a third. The chairs have been made of solid beech wood, which is of higher quality and longer lasting.

Gispen Mondial by Gerrit Rietveld

The Mondial chair was designed as a “chair for the people” by Gerrit Rietveld in 1957. The sleek, minimalist line of the Mondial forms a simple K-profile. Designed as a stackable chair, its back, seat, legs and optional armrests come together at one central torsion tube. The back and the seat are pressed out of an aluminum sheet and joined by poprivets. The armrest is part bakelite, while the frame is constructed from a bent steel sheet. The caps on the legs are in black PVC. Launched at the Milan Biennale and celebrated at the World Exhibition in Brussels, this award-winning design was ahead of its time. Mondial is now produced to Rietveld’s original specification using state-of-the-art manufacturing techniques.

Rietveld Steltman by Gerrit Rietveld

The asymmetrical Steltman chair, designed in 1963 for the Steltman jewelry house in The Hague, has the open composition of horizontals and verticals so characteristic of Rietveld. The Steltman is available both in a left-handed and a right-handed design, in a white stain wash and a clear varnish version.

Arco Pivot by Shay Alkalay of Raw Edges

A clever and innovative cabinet made of solid wood and built on tall legs. Its unique drawers pivot out rather than slide, making it possible to open both at one time.

Available in: lacquer, solid oak, solid American walnut.

Other iconic highlights from the exhibit included:

Gispen 412 by W. H. Gispen

Artifort Ribbon by Pierre Paulin

Artifort Cleopatra by Geoffrey Hartcourt

Montis Butterfly by Gerard Van Den Berg

Montis Loge & Ottoman by Gerard Van Den Berg

Montis Windy by Gijs Papavione

Montis Hugo Chair by Simon Pengelly

Dutch Design

1920s

1921:

Gerrit Thomas Rietveld’s Red/Blue chair heralds the arrival of modernism in furniture design. Dressed in primary hues, the beech and plywood seat was an homage to fellow DeStijl member Piet Mondrian. Although wildly sculptural in form, Rietveld’s simple construction included standard lengths of wood so that it could be easily mass produced.

De Stijl artists meet with Russian Constructivists in Dusseldorf, Germany, to form an international organization promoting avant-garde artistic principles via magazines, salons, and traveling exhibitions.

Rietveld designs the Berlin—or plank—chair for the exhibition room of Rietveld and Huszar in Berlin. The structure features two design concepts that were revolutionary for the time: asymmetry and flat-panel construction.

1923:

As part of a furniture commission for Katholiek Militair Tehuis—the Catholic Military Home—in Utrecht, Rietveld envisions the sparely beautiful Military chair. The luxury apartment store Metz&Co. in Amsterdam is the first to showcase the line.

Led by Paul Schuitema and Piet Zwart, the Dutch Expressive Functionalists promote their theory of reconciling opposites through groundbreaking graphic designs.

1924:

Rietveld completes work on a house for Mrs. Truus Schroder-Schrader, the only building created in accordance with De Stijl principles.

1926

Progressive designers of the post-war machine age begin using man-made materials. Dutch architect Mart Stamm wins the heavily contested race to design the first cantilevered chair.

1930s

1930:

Mart Stamm, an early proponent of the anti-aesthetic movement, emigrates to Russia

De Stijl cofounder J. J. P. Oud, Rotterdam’s chief architect, creates a chair for Metz & Co.—which later commissions Gerrit Reitveld to design a rooftop cupola.

1931:

Painter Theo Van Doesburg leaves De Stijl to found the Abstraction-Création art group.

Wendingen, the magazine of the Amsterdam School of architecture—a movement distinguished by artful brickwork and expressionist curves—publishes its last issue.

1932:

Widely considered the godfather of Dutch modernism, expressionist architect Hendrik Petrus Berlage receives the British Royal Gold Medal—two years before his death.

1933:

Piet Zwar leaves the Nederlandse Kabelfabriek Delft (the Dutch Cable Factory), for whom he executed graphics and typography, to work as an interior and furniture designer.

1934:

Gerrit Rietveld completes his elementally minimalist ZigZag chair, epitomizing the DeStijl approach to furniture as abstract sculpture.

Willem H. Gispen, a pioneer of mass-produced tubular-steel furniture, creates his streamlined 412 armchair.

1940s

1940:

Gerrit Rietveld focuses his attention on the next generation of young Dutch designers, teaching at many of the most prominent academic institutions in Holland.

Celebrated botanist J.P. Thissje completes an eponymous park in Amstelveen. Part nature preserve, part public garden, the design artfully synthesizes twin Dutch obsessions: civilization’s efforts to overcame forces of nature—and the simultaneous yearning to protect nature from man.

1941:

After stints living in Italy, Switzerland, and Belgium, globe-trotting artist M.C. Escher—who studied architecture before switching to graphic design—returns to his native Holland and kicks off a particularly prolific period in his career.

Painter and ceramicist Bart van der Leck, an early DeStijl acolyte who left the group in 1918, designs an angular, stencil-like typeface for Dutch art magazine Flax.

1943:

Artist Piet Mondrian completes his abstractly geometric canvas Broadway Boogie-Woogie after an inspired visit to New York City.

1945:

A newly liberated Rotterdam—its historic fabric largely destroyed by WWII bombing—begins rebuilding, giving rise to a truly modern city that later becomes a haven for the country’s most iconoclastic architects.

1947:

The Academie voor Industriële Vormgeving Eindhoven—renamed the Design Academy Eindhoven in 1997—is formed. Famous alums include Maarten Baas, Hella Jongerius, Toord Boontje, Job Smeets, and Richard Hutten.

1948:

Queen Wilhelmina abdicates the throne to her daughter, Juliana.

1950s

1953:

Cor Unum Ceramics & Art opens shop in the Dutch ceramics capital of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, employing handicapped artisans to craft its modern designs. Over the years, the studio collaborates with cutting-edge talents such as Marc Newsom, Jasper Morrison, Ron Arad, and Ettore Sottsass.

1954:

Aldo van Eyck becomes a founder of Team 10, a group of young European architects who proposed a humanistic alternative to the dominant strain of functional modernism. A few years later, his influential scheme for the Amsterdam Orphanage exemplifies the movement’s utopic ideals.

1955:

Glass artist Sybren Valkema envisions the possibility of working on small mobile furnaces—and the positive impact such an invention might have on the burgeoning studio-glass movement. It took a decade to realize his concept: in 1965, he constructed the first glass furnace at a European school—the Rietveld Academy.

1957:

Gerrit Rietveld teams with his son, Wim, to produce the stackable aluminum Mondial chair for the World Exhibition in Brussels. (The prolific designer also engineered the exhibition’s Dutch pavilion.) Although envisioned as a populist “chair for the people,” production challenges meant that the complex design—which pivots an aluminum seat and back around a central torsion tube—could be released only in limited edition.

1958:

Celebrated documentarian Bert Haanstra, who won a Grand Prix at Cannes with Miroir of Hollande in 1950, completes Fanfare—his first feature—ushering in a new era of Dutch narrative cinema.

1960s

1963:

Designer Hella Jongerius and textile artist Claudy Jongstra are born in the Netherlands. The decade truly marks the birth of new-wave Dutch design: other ’60s babies include Jurgen Bey (1965), Ineke Hans (1966), and Richard Hutten (1967).

1963:

A year before his death, Gerrit Rietveld designs the Van Gogh Museum as well as a series of artfully constructivist chairs—the Steltman—for a jewelry shop in The Hague.

1966:

Parisian talent Pierre Paulin, who joined Artifort in 1958, releases his classic Ribbon chair (also called the 582). Its sculptural bearing and sinuous lines signals the venerable company’s fervent embrace of post-war modernism.

1967:

Gerard Unger graduates from the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. After launching his own studio in Bussum, the graphic artist and typographer will design stamps, coins, magazines, books, logos, corporate identities, and even signage for the Amsterdam Metro.

Architect Hermann Hertzberger begins construction on the Central Beheer office complex in Apeldoorn. The building’s solid precast-concrete form belies its conceptual dynamism. Conceived as an assemblage of settlements, it was designed to adapt over time as programming needs evolve.

1968:

Abstract expressionist painter Willem de Kooning returns to the Netherlands for the first time since arriving in the U.S. in 1926—as a stowaway aboard the British cargo ship S.S. Shelly. The occasion? To attend his retrospective at the Stedelijk Museum.

1970s

1970:

Taking sensuous minimalism to an extreme, Geoffrey Hartcourt designs an evocative C-shaped sofa for Artifort—Cleopatra—whose seat curls up and over at one end to form the backrest.

At the age of 79, Willem Gispen retires from furniture making, returning to school to study graphic design at the Academy of The Hague.

1971:

Gerrit Reitzveld’s iconic ZigZag and RedBlue chairs are finally put into production by Cassina.

An art-world phenomenon, the groundbreaking Sonsbeek 71 Sculpture Exhibition overtakes a city park in Arnhem. This year’s organizer, Wim Beeren, will go on to direct the Stedelijk Museum

1976:

Dutch artist and art historian Coosje Van Bruggen collaborates for the first time with future husband Claes Oldenberg to create Trowel I.

1977:

Gert Dumbar establishes graphic design firm Studio Dumbar in 1977 with an emphasis on corporate identity. The atelier will be hired to brand the Dutch police and postal service, among others, and is largely responsible for creating the nation’s public visual image throughout the ’80s.

Zaha Hadid is made partner at Rotterdam’s Office of Metropolitan Architecture. After starting her own London firm three years later, she will return to the Netherlands in 1990 to complete one of her first built: a music video pavilion in Groningen.

1980s

1982:

Graphic designer R.D.E. Ootje Oxenaar completes a new 50-guilder note, abloom with images of Van Gogh’s sunflowers. It is replaced by the Euro twenty years later—thus ending the illustrious tradition of Dutch banknote artistry.

1983:

Gerard van den Berg’s Butterfly lounge for Montis floats a pillowy square cushion on a tubular-steel base. Six years later, he takes a more traditional turn with Loge: a postmodern take on an old-school leather club chair, enlivened by racy curves.

1984:

Architect Piet Bloom completes Stilt House in downtown Rotterdam, an experimental housing complex that turns the iconic Dutch gable roof on its head—literally.

Twelve years after the royal family gifts its 17th-century baroque manor house to the state, landscape artist Claude Desgotz’s great gardens are restored to their Versailles-inspired splendor—just in time to celebrate the building’s tercentennial.

1987:

Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven—the vision behind high-concept action flicks RoboCop, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, and Showgirls—makes Flesh and Blood, his first US film.

In downtown Maastricht, Wiel Arets Architects completes Beltgens Fashionstore—an exhibition space cum men’s clothing boutique. The austere design prefigures the architect’s later work, including his proposal for a new MoMA building and his sparely elegant Dot bathroom suite for Alessi

1989:

Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren meet as art students at the Arnhem Academy. A few years later, they found upstart avant-garde fashion label Viktor & Rolf in Amsterdam.

1990s

1990:

Reacting against the vogue for streamlined modernist furnishings that reached its apotheosis in the 1980s, artist and designer Piet Hein Eek builds his first cupboard from salvaged scrap woods—sparking a renewed appreciation for traditional (but tweaked) craftsmanship.

1991:

Copartners Winy Maas, Jacob van Rijs, and Nathalie de Vries found the cerebral Rotterdam architecture/urban-planning firm MVRDV, whose innovative structures address the impact of data and information technology on the built environment.

Tejo Remy designs his cheeky Chest of Drawers, a bureau made from a jumbled stack of mismatched, repurposed drawers held together by an elastic loop.

1992:

Eindhoven graduate and Montis product designer Gijs Papavione unveils Windy, an armchair and companion ottoman that looks like it is being blown over by a stiff breeze.

1993:

The influential Droog Design collective is founded by jeweler/industrial designer Gijs Bakker and critic/art historian Renny Ramakers on the principals of affordability, sustainability, economy—and dry wit.

1996:

Marcel Wanders unveils his iconic Knotted chair. The low-slung crocheted form, made of carbon and aramid fibers and epoxy resin, marries high-tech modern materials with old-school craftsmanship. He launches Moooi four years later.

1998:

Mecanoo completes the Technology Central Library for Delft University. By burying most of the structure underground—save for one end that peels up to form a glass wall—the architects created usable lawn space above while deferring to the assertively brutalist concrete form of Van den Broek & Bakema’s adjacent auditorium.

Ben van Berkel of Amsterdam firm UNStudio completes Möbius House in Het Gooi, the Netherlands, which quickly became an international icon. Its radical looping concrete-and-glass form redefined the relationship between private and public space by obliterating boundaries between them.

1999:

British designer (and society gadabout) Anouska Hempel ushers in the boutique-hotel phenomenon by converting a 1673 former theater into the 26-room Blakes Amsterdam, with postmodern interiors that riff on the history of Dutch art and architecture.

2000s

2000:

Renowned curator Aaron Betsky leaves his post at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to direct the venerable Netherlands Architecture Institute in Rotterdam.

Visionary architect Rem Koolhaas nabs the Pritzker Prize—the first Dutch designer to win the honor—at the age of 56. A year later, his Office of Metropolitan Architecture finally completes the hotly anticipated Prada Store in New York.

2003:

Four-hundred-year-old ceramics house Royal Tichelaar Makkum—the oldest company in the Netherlands—makes its Salone del Mobile debut with experimental hand-painted earthenware and faience pieces by Hella Jongerius, Jurgen Bey, and Marcel Wanders.

2004:

Simply Droog, a traveling retrospective organized by the high-concept collective, opens in Munich with an elemental installation by Jurgen Bey. The show comes to New York’s Museum of Arts and Design two years later.

2007:

U.K. talent Simon Pengelly designs Hugo, a mod swiveling armchair for Montis that marries retro styling with a streamlined profile.

TNT Post, the Dutch mail system, gives a shout-out to Mother Earth by releasing “blooming” stamps: envisioned by graphic designer Martin van Vreden, the miniature artworks are embedded with seeds that sprout into flowers when planted.

Under the leadership of chairwoman (and trendspotter) Li Edelkoort, the famed Design Academy Eindhoven inaugurates the city’s first design museum, Designhuis, which overtakes an old courthouse reinvented by Yksi Designers.

2008:

London-based Israeli-born designer Shay Alkalay of Raw Edges debuts his gravity-defying three-drawer Pivot table for Dutch furniture manufacturer Arco.

Make It Right, the foundation started by actor and urban-planning activist Brad Pitt, commissions Rotterdam-based architecture firm MDRVD to design sustainable, affordable housing in New Orleans.