Editor’s note: As the Bard Graduate Center Gallery remains closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the gallery has launched an online companion to the Eileen Gray exhibition, which you can explore right here.
Eileen Gray is perhaps best known for E.1027, the late architect and designer’s iconic modernist villa in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France, that’s wrapped up in romantic and architectural drama. But as an expansive new exhibition at the Bard Graduate Center Gallery in New York City illustrates, focusing solely on E.1027 undermines Gray’s prolific career in architecture, furniture design, lacquer art, and beyond.
Opened on February 29, “Eileen Gray” is billed as the first in-depth exhibition in the U.S. of Gray’s legacy, presenting more than 200 works, including never-before-exhibited furniture designs, architectural drawings, and photographs.
The retrospective, curated by Cloé Pitiot, is split into five main sections that more or less takes you through Gray’s career chronologically. It starts during her early years in London where she studied at the Slade School of Art. The show then moves into her time in Paris, where she studied with famed lacquer artist Seizo Sugawara and started her own gallery space under the pseudonym Jean Désert, where she sold furniture and rugs.
Another section examines her collaborations with her one-time lover, Romanian architect Jean Badovici, for whom she designed E.1027. Lastly, the show looks at Gray’s under-appreciated architectural work, most of which never came to fruition but lives on through drawings, archival documents, and models.
“Eileen Gray remains fundamentally underestimated or misunderstood by most critics and historians,” says BGC Gallery Director Nina Stritzler-Levine. The exhibition aims to bring Gray into the spotlight, decades after her death in 1976, in the hopes that the sheer breadth and depth of her work will elucidate how significant (and often forgotten) her influence on modern design really is.
Take a closer look at a selection of exhibited items.