In celebration of London Design Festival, Design SECT will be dedicating their gallery space in London’s famed Alfies Antiques Market to the works of Friso Kramer and Wim Rietveld for a month, two of the most important names in Dutch industrial design from the post-war era.
Appreciation is growing for these Dutch designers, as pieces by their contemporaries Perriand and Prouvé remain inaccessible to many. The influence of De Stijl, and their observation of the Goed Wonen movement – the Dutch foundation set up in 1948 to promote well-designed domestic goods – make their designs as appealing and relevant today as they were over fifty years ago.
All gallery images courtesy of Design SECT
Here at MidCentury, we asked organisers Matt Mitchell and Jayne Gething to share their thoughts on mid-century Dutch design.
What prompted you to put on an exhibition on Dutch mid-century design?
Our space at Alfies Antiques Market lends itself to being used as a small gallery. Because we deal in designs that we love, it’s natural to want to share some of the context and history and we find that our customers are keen to learn more. Earlier this year we dedicated our space to the Dutch mid-century manufacturer Pastoe for a month and the approach was well received, so for London Design Festival we’ve chose to put the spotlight on two of our favourite Dutch mid-century designers: Friso Kramer and Wim Rietveld. Alfies Antiques Market aims to showcase great design and blur the line between art and antiques, old and new, so this exhibition – functioning both as a commercial sale and an installation – slots in perfectly.
How many Dutch mid-century pieces are in the exhibition?
This is a selling exhibition, rather than a complete retrospective, so we’ll be presenting a display of those Dutch mid-century pieces that we consider particularly compelling and accessible. Different items will be introduced into the gallery over the course of the month. There will be around 15-20 original Dutch mid-century pieces at the opening, most of which will be for sale, including some nice examples of Friso Kramer’s Revolt chair (1953) and Wim Rietveld’s Pyramid table (1960), both designed for Dutch manufacturer Ahrend De Cirkel. We will also be showcasing the re-issued Revolt chair from Ahrend – again designed by Kramer, which will be available by special order from the gallery.
What are your favourite Dutch mid-century Kramer and Rietveld designs?
It’s hard to pick a favourite from such a wide range: Kramer and Rietveld both worked beyond the world of furniture, so one could choose anything from street-lighting to trams. That said, I’m a big fan of the Revolve chair (1961), which I think is currently underestimated as a piece; it’s a future classic and it would be perfectly at home on the set of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. I also like the Oase chairs by Rietveld (1958), in which the mix of grey steel and bright upholstery nicely exemplifies the Dutch Modern aesthetic. The skeletal frame of the Pyramid table – with its strong Prouvé reference – is particularly beautiful: we have one in our own home and we still find it amazing though we live with it every day.
What do you think are the main reasons for the growth in popularity of Dutch mid-century furniture in the UK?
The simplicity and integrity of Dutch mid-century design – together with relatively modest volumes by global standards – represent an opportunity for serious buyers who want to engage with something unusual, stylish and (currently) still affordable. These pieces fit well into minimal environments; equally their simplicity allows them to sit alongside virtually any other piece of furniture without disturbing the harmony. In short, the style is as relevant to our current taste as it was when Kramer and Rietveld were designing in the 1950s.
Looking forward, the choice of Dutch mid-century pieces is supported by the global recognition and success of contemporary Dutch design. Designers like Viktor & Rolf, Marcel Wanders and Droog continue to create ground-breaking pieces that are eminently collectable and thought-provoking.
Where do you source your Dutch mid-century pieces?
We travel to Europe regularly for our Dutch mid-century furniture, buying from all sorts of places. We use our experience and network to help private buyers find the right pieces for their homes, and also source Dutch and other mid-century furniture for interior designers. We find that quite a lot of our stock is offered to us directly, which is nice because this way it usually comes with a history.
Photograph courtesy Ahrend
Dutch mid-century furniture: A potted history
In 1917, the artistic group De Stijl was established in the Netherlands, advocating reduction to the essentials of form and colour. These principles can be seen in the work of key members, the artist Piet Mondrian and the architect Gerrit Rietveld – designer of the Red and Blue chair and the brilliant Schröder House in Utrecht, and father of Wim who continued in the same vein.
Two years later, in Weimar, Germany, the Bauhaus was founded with a radical vision for the union of art and design. The multi-disciplinary approach – which seems obvious today – was embraced by Dutch industry and carried on by such groups as Total Design (1963), who brought together the work of graphic artist Wim Crouwel, architectural designer Bruno Bessing and Friso Kramer as product designer. Broadly speaking, the influence of De Stijl and the Bauhaus on the furniture we know today cannot be underestimated.
Later, in post-war Holland, the Goed Wonen movement was established to promote well-designed domestic goods. Both Kramer and Rietveld were working at this time – for manufacturers Ahrend and Gispen – openly applying its principles. It is these factors that have contributed to what we now appreciate as a pure and simple aesthetic combined with utilitarian functionality. And that is a very appealing combination.
Photograph courtesy Ahrend
For details about visiting the exhibition Kramer and Rietveld, click here
The exhibition appears to come full circle in its display of the Ahrend reissue of Friso Kramer’s 1953 Revolt chair, a product that the Dutch manufacturer produced with the designer himself, utilising developments in manufacturing for its contemporary materials. Design SECT is one of the few UK retailers of this product and they are available by special order from the gallery.
Alfies Antiques Market
Get our Buyer’s Guide to Going Dutch in MidCentury issue 05
Read our Buyer’s Guide to Prouvé and the French Modernists
See current products manufactured by Ahrend
Check out other events during London Design Festival