Saturday, June 14, 2014

Analysis of Initial Reaction to the New Furniture Exhibition 1901 - an 'exceedingly vulgar show' - (Curated by The Victoria and Albert Museum) with Lessons for Today (extending to the use of handmade area rugs) Regarding Evolution of Tastes and Styles

International Archives Day: New Art Furniture exhibition 1901 - an ‘exceedingly vulgar show’ | Victoria & Albert Museum
Dining Room designed by E. Galliard, in Sigfried Bing’s L’Art Nouveau Pavilion

The link above discusses an event early in the last century at which the shock of the new was virtually unbearable for guardians of taste. The reaction, apparently archetypal, can be seen repeatedly over ensuing decades to the present day in subsequent incidents encompassing diverse disciplines (architecture, art, fashion, literature, music) as the new (with increasing velocity facilitated by communication advances) surprises, permeates, and redefines culture.
Council of Advice for Art, Memorandum on the acquisition and display of ‘New Art’ at the Victoria and Albert Museum

In our own "discipline" -- fine quality handmade oriental rugs -- Brandon Oriental Rugs has witnessed many changes over the last quarter century. Many of the style shifts involved color rather than design changes: so pure color replaced earth tones, which supplanted jewel tones, which had earlier succeeded pastels, which appeared in reaction to pure tones (remember orange shag in the late 70's?).  More recently, forays into modern styling in handmade rug design have expanded with almost iconoclastic fervor that seems bent upon overthrowing traditional ideas of what rugs should look like and be. Market forces in part affect these changes; but an underlying existential restlessness associated with the New Millennium and consumers to whom the millennial label is attached seems to be what is energizing change.

One lesson to be garnered from consideration of the history of the "New Art" of the early 1900's is the fact that the objects which spawned an initially unfavorable reaction were well crafted; built with quality choices; designed to endure. When the blasts of unfavorable opinion had been vented, they still stood; no worse for the wear.

Guardians of taste, and taste-makers of the present day can take note. While a lot of what is new is not necessarily good; there is much of the new that is very good. Traditionalists have reason to be heartened by quality materials, construction AND design in much of the new that has been and is being introduced. By the same token, the iconoclasts can appreciate that no amount of bluster will wear down some rocks. Brandon Oriental Rugs can attest to ongoing, wide-spread interest and use of well-made traditional rugs in all styles of decor including eclectic, modern, Bohemian, and minimalist interiors. By the same token the fresh simplicity of many of the new rug designs is working very well in rooms with the very best furnishings of the past.

It is good to remember too, whether consideration of value is being given to an innovation or ongoing reproduction of the "tried and true": "If something is exceptionally well done it has embedded in its very existence the aim of lifting the common denominator rather than catering to it." 

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