From November 20, 2021, through May 30, 2022, the Philadelphia Museum of Art will present Circus: Bouroullec Designs, featuring the work of the brothers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec. We’ve followed their partnership as product designers for many years, our first introduction to their out-of-the-box thinking during the initial Design Miami/ fair. As you can see from the images that illustrate this post, their repertoire is broad and sophisticated.
Circus: Bouroullec Designs
The title of this exhibition is inspired by their lively design sense and creative spirit. The show will be filled with a visual parade of elements—from furniture, lighting, and textiles to glass, ceramics, and room partition systems. Each piece exemplifies the minimal and refined visual language they create, while also illustrating their thoughtful approach to materials that merges traditional methods with the feats of modern engineering. Collab, the museum’s affiliate group for modern and contemporary design, will honor Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec with its prestigious Collab Design Excellence Award with an in-person presentation and celebration in the spring.
The Bouroullec brothers were born in Quimper, Brittany. They completed their studies at the École supérieure des Arts décoratifs in Paris and École nationale supérieure des Arts in Cergy. They began their joint practice, Bouroullec Designs, in the late 1990s. Based in Paris, their practice encompasses furniture, lighting, textiles, jewelry, ceramics and glass, drawings and photography, room partition systems, and architecture. The Philadelphia exhibition showcases about forty works, largely conceived and created in the last decade, that are poetic in spirit yet practical in their attention to sustainability and cost-efficiency. Each creation is also rooted in a deep understanding and respect for traditional craft.
Among the highlights will be a special large-scale installation of the “Cloud” system, made by Kvadrat (shown earlier in this post), and a work made from their new “Bloc” ceramic bricks, produced by Mutina. Also included will be original models for recent projects that explore striking interconnections between urban settings, architecture, and nature, such as the balletic set of fountains at the Rond-Point des Champs-Elysées in Paris, which consist of six 42-feet-high illuminated bronze and crystal structures that slowly revolve as their vertical forms cascade water into the basins below; the dramatic interventions around the new Bourse de Commerce, home to the Pinault Collection in Paris (which we featured in this post); and Le Belvédère, in the River Vilaine, Rennes.
Jack Hinton, the Henry P. McIlhenny Curator of European Decorative Arts and Sculpture at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, who curated the exhibition, says: “Erwan and Ronan’s unique creativity, playful design sense and deep appreciation of materials and their effects are what set these designers apart. They are remarkably forward-thinking, pushing the boundaries of what contemporary design can offer as an experience. We are delighted to collaborate so closely with them and to share their recent work with audiences in Philadelphia and beyond.”
In conjunction with the exhibition, this year’s Collab Student Design Competition will challenge students at local colleges and universities to submit original designs that address the question: “What does the next generation imagine for the future of design?” Students are encouraged to design a single element, through repetition, and to transform it into an installation or piece of furniture. The Student Design Competition will be held online, providing a unique opportunity for students to receive valuable feedback from nationally recognized industry leaders. On Wednesday, November 17, a panel of judges drawn from the region’s professional design community will meet online to identify the most innovative entries. Winners will be announced on Saturday, November 20, and their projects will be published on the museum’s website.
The list of the judges of the Student Design Competition is impressive. They include Beth Dickstein, CEO of bde, marketing and purposeful relations, and co-founder of Be Original Americas; John James Jenkins, CEO of Kartell, a furniture and home furnishing company; Melissa Shelton, US President of Vitra, furniture and home furnishings; Norman Teague of Norman Teague Design Studio, objects, spaces public projects and exhibitions; Andrea Avram Rusu of Avram Rusu Studio, a multi-disciplinary design studio; and Ghislaine Viñas of Ghislaine Viñas LLC, residential, commercial and product design. We look forward to seeing the bright young minds who will drive the future of our industry as these new talents are discovered.
If you want to buy tickets for Circus: Bouroullec Designs, visit the museum’s website and click on “Buy Tickets” in the top menu bar. If you go, let us know your thoughts on this dynamic duo and the creations that have sprung from the two brilliant minds.