Journal Article

Selling Folk Art and Modern Design: Alexander Girard and Herman Miller’s Textiles and Objects Shop (1961–1967)

Monica Obniski

in Journal of Design History

Published on behalf of Design History Society

Volume 28, issue 3, pages 254-274
Published in print September 2015 | ISSN: 0952-4649
Published online April 2015 | e-ISSN: 1741-7279 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jdh/epv011
Selling Folk Art and Modern Design: Alexander Girard and Herman Miller’s Textiles and Objects Shop (1961–1967)

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Under the guidance of director of textiles Alexander H. Girard, the Herman Miller Furniture Company embarked on an experimental showroom in New York City that sold contemporary textiles (designed by Girard) alongside global folk art and other handcrafted objects (sourced by Girard). Although not as recognized as his colleagues, George Nelson and Charles Eames, during the period Girard was a well-known architect, tastemaker and folk art collector who designed dwellings, exhibitions, showrooms and contract interiors, among other works. This paper will locate one of his showroom projects for Herman Miller, the Textiles & Objects Shop, to explore how modern design and folk art was displayed and sold jointly in the period. Related to Girard’s design process was the Herman Miller brand image as projected by the T & O Shop—Herman Miller as a modern furniture retailer enlivened by whimsical folk art and handcrafted objects. In addition to examining the architecture and design of the showroom, archival documents reconstruct this little-known chapter in Herman Miller’s history, shedding light on the business of selling seemingly antithetical works in mid-twentieth century America. For Girard, folk art was a marker of modernity, and he construed it as a good companion to modern design.

Keywords: 1960s; business history; consumption; corporate identity; display; Herman Miller

Journal Article.  11577 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Art Forms ; Art Styles ; History of Art ; Industrial and Commercial Art

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