A pioneer of fabrication, Paulin’s unprecedented use of textiles opened up the imagination of a generation. His revolutionary use of jersey fabric as a skin to cover underlying structures enabled the designer to play with architectural and industrial forms in a new way—witness his squiggly Dos à Dos Chaise (1968) for the Mobilier National or his wrapped “Mushroom” seating series with Artifort. Effortless and eerily contemporary, these iconic pieces exemplify the designer’s ingenious ability to instill a sense of wonder while utilizing the familiar. This month a new exhibition at Demisch Danant called “Pierre Paulin: L’homme moderne” celebrates Paulin’s achievements as a material innovator by examining his breakthrough moments from the 1960s through the 1980s.
Homing in on Paulin’s fascination with seating, the exhibition offers an almost encyclopedic presentation of the designer’s chairs, many of which have never been exhibited before. Superior examples of the designer’s signature soft form pieces, like the “Pacha” series and Ribbon chair, are well-represented—but it’s the unexpectedly structured works like the one-of-a-kind chaise lounge and the web-like Spider chair that offer a welcomed challenge to Paulin’s reputation as a pop-centric figure. The story is completed with the addition of an early chandelier and floor lamp that showcase the way the designer adapted his fluid vocabulary into metal.
To capture the essence of Paulin’s era, the designer’s low-slung chairs and structured table are contextualized within a restaging of his jersey tent, which the designer originally created in 1970 for the “Meuble et Fonction” Paris showroom. A masterful demonstration of the designer’s versatility, the airy apparatus masks the existing architecture of the second-floor gallery—adding a sense of intimacy and motion that feels organic to the space, and to Paulin.