Tuesday, February 20, 2007

the geography of modern art

from Saint-Tropez to Tahiti

I sure as hell don't know what it is like to go on vacation to Saint-Tropez so I don't blame Team St. Tropez for their ignorance on that front.
(I know there is the whole Brigitte Bardot thing but I'm more taken by the romance of the La Dolce Vita on the Italian Riviera. Of course the reality is that on both the French and the Italian side the beaches are over crowded and the water is polluted. Anyway, whenever I think of the French at the beach all I can think of is Mr. Hulot's Holiday!)

Nonetheless, I would expect them to be familiar with these places not through travel but through art; they are associated with two key movements in Modern Art: pointillism and primitivism.I know this is pedantic but, frankly, they should know this stuff. Understanding twentieth century design requires a knowledge of visual idioms such as pointillism and primitivism (along with other avant-garde innovations such as cubism and surrealism and later movements such as abstract expressionism and pop art).

For that reason it is disapointing that the designers were not familiar with Saint-Tropez or they could not think of what to do with Tahiti other than Gilligan's Island. (And Ryan is an artist for chrissakes. Oy. Don't even get me started.)

There are many technical and business aspects to the work of Interior Designers and Decorators
( and every job has administrative and related tasks). (Click here to to go Linda Merrill's discussion of the professional responsibilities of decorators and designers in her online : : surroundings magazine.)

However, Interior Design is also an applied field in the Arts. The art historical focus is more on architecture, decoration, furniture, textiles, etc. Nonetheless, it would seem to me at least that an awareness of the key movements of art and design is basic knowledge for working in the profession.

Am I right? Professionals out there?

Anyway, if it isn't part of the training they should know it anyway. And it should be part of the training.

There. I've said it.


Linda Merrill said...

This is a fabulous post, and thanks again for the shout out!

I would totally agree that interior designers/decorators should be as well versed in fine art - particularly 20th C art - as possible. All references to art, history, culture and the like can only help advise and inspire the decorative arts. That said, however, in-depth fine art history courses are not usually part of standard architecture and interior design curricula. Elective classes in art history are usually "survey" style classes, which use a "wide brush" (pardon the pun) to cover the topic, but there's little time to analyse Seurat's individual color choices, for instance.

I think it really requires a lifetime to learn all the arts disciplines (music, fine art, theater, architecture) in context with political and cultural history and how all that can influence interior design. Until that time, successful designers have to use their imaginations and wit. That's why it can be a shame that "hot, young" designers are so in demand and those with more experience and age are often looked over.

trixie said...

You make a couple of points that bear repeating.

First that other arts such as theater are also key to interior design. (Since I'm not an interior designer I am drawn to my own fields of art and literature, obviously.)

Second, and most importantly, like experience, knowledge can only be built and enriched over time.

eric3000 said...

fine art was not part of the curriculum when I was teaching the history of interiors to design students who were in a two-year program. I tried to sneak in some fine art, anyway, but there definitely wasn't much of a focus on it.

I can't say any knowlege I might have about pointalism would give me a clue about designing a Saint-Tropez cabana, although I guess it could give a sense of color. And you are right, Gaugin would be a good inspiration for thinking about Tahiti.

eric3000 said...

Please forgive the spelling in my previous comment!

eric3000 said...

Oh, two more comments about my experience trying to teach art history to interior design students:

First of all, it was the older, or returning students, who were most receptive; many of the younger students seemed to think learning about painting was a waste of time. So it is definitely true about experience being important.

Second, some of my students actually were annoyed with me when they discovered the fine art information I had been slipping them wasn't on the exams. They couldn't believe I had wasted their time telling them about something that wasn't even going to affect their grades! Oh, well; maybe they learned something, anyway.

trixie said...

Well obviously they didn't want to learn anything. God forbid. They just wanted to pass the test. They'll be planning cubicle layouts for corporate offices for the rest of their lives.

My point was that knowing about the emergence of the art movement in St. Tropez might have helped them with their color palette problem. But that may just prove how geeky I am. But Goil's trained at Yale. What the hell are they teaching there?

Linda Merrill said...

Well, they are definitely not teaching cabana's at Yale.

Eric, you're right, I was an "older" (sob!) student when I returned to school for interior design and we were much more interested in the broad view. But when I was a teenager in music school - we rolled our eyes at the "adult" students who kept asking questions. I took art history and theater history courses as an undergrad (electives outside the music major), but it took years for me to put it all together.

I remember when I realized that Mozart, Louis XVI and the revolutionary period in America were all happening at approximately same time... it was quite the revelation. One I wished I'd appreciated sooner!

And I do think my broad arts knowledge helps in my design work. I sometimes fall down remembering the terms for things (thingy being one of my favorite technical terms), but I have an innate sense of time periods and the visual nuances of architecture.

trixie said...

I know from forgetting names and words! Forgetting spelling is the most embarrassing. I have to do NYT crossword puzzles just to convince myself that I'm not yet senile.

The bad news/good news is that there is part of the brain that gets worse with age (short term memory) but there is also part of the brain that gets better with age (understanding complexity and integrating concepts).

Anonymous said...

Short term memory loss = Presidential eligibility!

Ms. Place said...

Dahlings I am arriving late in this fabulous dialogue as I have been laid low by the flu. Having a background in fine art, art history, and science provides me with a modest visual vocabulary that allow me to make aesthetic judgments and associations that span history.

I work on a grant project at our university, and am continually struck by how little today's young Americans know about history, literature, arts, and culture. These topics are being swept under the rug in pursuit of SOLs and entry into the right college or university.

As a society we know so much about Anna Nicole and Brittney, football scores, pop music, television shows, current fads, and top fashion labels than about geography, the opera, ballet, or the contents of the great museum in general.

At times I feel like I've landed on an alien planet. Today, reading these posts, I felt right at home again.

Ms. Place said...

My brain is still befogged. These topics are being swept under the rug... I meant to add ... in high school. But colleges are also doing an abysmal job of teaching culture and history. Unless the love for art is taught within the family unit, I am afraid it is hardly being taught at all.