Born Kathleen Eileen Moray Smith-Gray in 1878 in Ireland, the woman who came to be known simply as Eileen Gray was one of the twentieth century’s most accomplished designer-architects. Although today she is recognized as a pioneering woman in the predominantly male field of modern architecture, history largely forgot her after the Second World War until her death in 1976. When the Centre Pompidou in Paris organized the exhibition Eileen Gray in 2013, it had been almost forty years since the last display of her work. In the United States, Eileen Gray has not been the subject of an exhibition since the Museum of Modern Art organized Eileen Gray, Designer in 1980.
Bard Graduate Center’s Eileen Gray exhibition considers the scope and versatility of Eileen Gray’s practice, which includes furniture, lighting, rugs, interiors, architecture, painting, drawing, and photography. Among the distinguishing features of her long and prolific career—she continued to work until she died in 1976 at the age of ninety-eight—are the consistent quality and integrity of her practice, exemplified in the choice of materials, the investment in authentic methods of production, and the experimentation in the design process to discover inventive ways to respond to basic human needs.
The exhibition examines the various phases of Eileen Gray’s career thematically and chronologically. On the first floor, Chronology and Encounters introduces key events in her long career and presents the many artists, writers, and intellectuals who fostered Gray’s particular interpretation of modernism in design and architecture. The adjacent first floor gallery considers specific examples of Gray’s lacquer work from American collections. Different aspects of her life in Paris are featured on the second floor, including Galerie Jean Désert; her interior projects; and the impact of Jean Badovici and modern architecture on her career. The third floor examines Gray’s principal architectural works, among them E 1027 and Tempe a Pailla.
Click the links on the right to explore different views of the exhibition and then click within the installation photographs to learn about selected objects on display.