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Ron Arad - Before and After
  by Carina Villinger

Victoria & Albert Museum
To October 1, 2000

A sliver of stainless steel and mirrored glass slices through the entrance hall of the Victoria & Albert museum, right through its precious medieval collection to the garden courtyard. This prime placement for contemporary design is representative of the venerable museum's intention to drag its slightly dusty image into the twenty-first century.

This small-scale retrospective, or installation, as the V&A prefers to call it, explores Israeli-born designer Ron Arad's work over the past decades with an overview of objects from all phases of his career. Probably best known for his early designs, represented by pieces such as the Rover Chair and the Concrete Stereo, it also shows more recent aspects of his work. Selected by Arad and Caroline Thorman, former manager and co-founder of the One Off workshop, they include the Tom Vac stacking chairs and computer-generated vases. Among the lenders to this exhibitions are private collectors as well as the manufacturers, including producers of modern design classics such as Kartell, Moroso and Alessi. Probably as familiar as Arad's designs are some of the names of his pieces, like the 'Fantastic Plastic Elastic', 'Beware of the Dog' or the 'Looming Lloyd Chair', that seem to have been lifted straight from seventies comics.

Born in 1951 in Tel Aviv to a painter mother and a photographer father, Arad moved to London in 1973. He studied for five years at the Architectural Association-School of Architecture, where he was a contemporary of Zaha Hadid and Nigel Coates. After two years at an architectural practice in London, his interest in design prevailed and he founded the One Off Ltd. Workshop in Covent Garden with Denis Grove and Caroline Thorman. Here he made his first series of interior structures and furniture designs composed from objets trouvés, tubes and clamps, the most famous result of which is the Rover Chair. Exemplary of Arad's witty postmodern designs, the Rover Chair is full of irony in combining a piece of rubbish (an old car seat) with a tubular suspension frame to create a piece of seating furniture. Even more ironic is the fact that the first Rover Chair was bought by fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier for his London shop and has since become an icon of modern design. One Off Ltd. contributed to the public awareness of modern furniture design by hosting the first shows of Danny Lane, Tom Dixon and Jon Mills, who are now all established designers in their own right. Arad's own work soon moved into the mainstream of modern furniture design. In 1986 he was commissioned by Vitra to design a chair for their new range of seating furniture. From this collaboration emerged the Well Tempered Chair, and later experimental objects such as the Old Dog, New Tricks. Seven years after the foundation of One Off, he established Ron Arad Associates Ltd., and was commissioned with the interior design of the Belgo Centraal, a chain of Belgian restaurants in London, and the foyer of the Tel Aviv Opera House.