Memories from France/ An Ode to Oscar Niemeyer at Galerie Downtown

Oscar Niemeyer became one of the greatest treasures from Modernist Architecture during the 20th century. His contributions to new generations are immeasurable. The sensual curves of his work in concrete have been enchanting the world since his first project, for Brazilian President Juscelino Kubitschek in Belo Horizonte – “The Pampulha Compound”.

From this project on, he worked in many countries all over the world, including the USA, Italy, Cuba,Germany, Israel, Lebanon, Spain and China, among others. But it was in France that Niemeyer found his “second home,” as he mentioned in an interview in 2009. He loved French culture, the literature, the art and the country’s way of life.

Lounge chair and his ottoman, 1968. Coffee table, 1985. Photo on the wall by Mathieu Salvaing

His first introduction to French architecture came with the chance to work with Lucio Costa and Le Corbuiser during the project of the Brazilian Ministry of the Health and Eduacation in Rio – Today known as Palácio Gustavo Capanema. After this encounter, Niemeyer and Le Corbusier had another artistic partnership: The United the Nations building in NYC. It was during the 40′s.

In the 60′s when the military dictatorship took over Brazil, Oscar was in Europe overlooking his projects, when he found out that his office was taken by the military forces and his friend went to jail for their political militancy.

Bed and his table prototype for a hotel, 1984

In France during the political exile, he found solidarity and humanism in his friends Andre Malraux and Charles de Gaulle, who gave him a permit to work as “a french architect”, as he also told me in the same interview back in 2009.

Also in France he built many important architecture landmarks such as: the Bourse in Bobgny, the Journal of L’Humanite, The Volcan in Le Havre, the “Brasilia House” in south of France and one of his favorites works of all times: The French Communist Party headquarters building – a collaboration with his great friend Jean Prouve . It was during this project that the master hang out with friends like Jean Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Charlotte Perriand among other artists and intelectuals. His home became a “kind of Brazilian embassy” for the artists and the political exiled from Brazil. And with Malraux, he created on his mind an “imaginary museum” where he kept all the pieces and artists he loved and who gave him inspiration for his work.

Chairs,A 1989 special commission for the newspaper ‘l’Humanité’ Paris (only 9 were designed). Photo on the wall: Mathieu Salvaing

Once more, it was in Paris, in the early 70′s, that Oscar Niemeyer, in collaboration with his daughter Anna Maria (1930-2012), started to design his first pieces of furniture, for Mobilier Internacional in inox, and then in the late 70′s more pieces for Tendo Japan and Tendo Brasil, in ebonized plywood .

Like his architecture his furniture are sculptures, full of shapes and curves, like a woman’s body. Small and rare, those pieces today belong to public buildings created by the master, a few homes, private collections and Museums.

Chair, 1971

As a Brazilian, it is a pleasure to present at Galerie Downtown, Paris one of the first shows who exhibits Niemeyer’s pieces from the 70′s to the 90′s, including prototypes, drawings, pictures and documents of this gigantic art master, that translate so wonderfully the sensuality of his country and that had conquered the world.

Danniel Rangel – October 2012
Galerie Downtown François Laffanour

Categories / Danniel Rangel, Galerie Downtown – Francois Laffanour, Oscar Niemeyer