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Saint-Etienne sublimates everyday objects

By Véronique Lorelle

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Posted today at 6:00 p.m.

Irons, sewing machines, Minitel or Tam Tam stool by Pierre Paulin… the “Deja-Vu” exhibition at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MAMC) in Saint-Etienne Métropole focuses on humble everyday objects , hence its title which may not arouse curiosity. “It’s time to tell the story of design, born more than fifty years ago, not through star products and master sources, but as our parents and grandparents experienced it”, claims the curator of the exhibition, Imke Plinta.

The route begins with these photos of post-war slums, without kitchen, without bathroom, by Stéphanois Ito Josué, responsible for documenting unsanitary dwellings as well as urban planning projects to the glory of the new cities of Saint-Etienne. and Firminy. Other photos, by photographer Jean-Louis Schoellkopf, testify to the radical transformation of interiors: Formica furniture, sofa level with the floor, open kitchen, etc.

View of the Deja-vu exhibition.  Furniture by Jules-Emile Leleu, from a room in the Martel-de-Janville sanatorium, 1934.

Imke Plinta succeeds in embodying this revolution by drawing 100% from the two thousand objects and drawings that the MAMC keeps. Timely, a room is dedicated to the designer Michel Mortier (1925-2015) with his subtle gouache drawings and pieces that have not aged a bit, such as this xylophone-style wooden slatted bench, or this functional chest-desk hanging from the Wall. “He is an extraordinary talent, first a decorator, he invented himself a designer and then a graphic designer: he is the creator of modernity”, s’exclame Imke Plinta.

The iconic Manufrance

All the pieces have been taken from the museum’s collections, which gives a somewhat disjointed exhibition. Manufrance, the iconic Saint-Etienne mail-order company that supplied all kinds of products, from hunting rifles to household items and wall clocks, still weighs heavily on museum reserves.

Nuggets emerge from this mishmash where eras collide, the pieces sometimes being classified by color (the inevitable orange of the seventies…). Among the delicacies to savor: this hygienic furniture in wood and metal for a sanatorium room in Savoy, by Jules-Emile Leleu, which is more often associated with Decorative Art. And the secretary Foresta (2002) published in twenty copies in wood, glass and mirror – never left the collections -, by the Italian Ettore Sottsass. Five years before his death, he imagines this office box lined with mirrors that reflect the image of himself and questions about the confinement linked to Internet practices.

View of the Deja-vu exhibition.  On the wall: Serge Mouille, wall light with five arms, circa 1950. On the ground, from left to right: Pierre Guariche for the Plastic Research Workshop), sideboard, 1955;  Jean Prouvé, low pedestal table GB 21, 1947;  Pierre Guariche, G 10 armchair, 1954.

“I want to encourage people to think about the uses and choices they make by buying one object rather than another”, emphasizes Imke Plinta. Which ends its course with the question of planned obsolescence. Stitched on the wall, a number of accessories now obsolete such as the Moulinex electric knife, the minute mayonnaise machine or the cheese maker bear witness to a design that claimed to be in the service of “female liberation”. At the time, a real commercial argument.

Already seen. Design in our daily life. Until August 22. Free exhibition. MAMC rue Fernand Léger. 42270 Saint-Priest-en-Jarez.
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