One of the great joys of art and art and architecture fairs is the energy they create for specialized focused architecture exhibitions at alternative sites away from the main venues. This is true for all Venice Art and Architecture Biennales and the Salone del Mobile in Milan, Italy. This week’s Art Basel/Design Miami, perhaps because it is still a relatively young event and focused on art and design and not architecture, is short on these sorts of serious ancillary events. But there is one small yet highly focused and detailed exhibit that stands out this week.
Curated by Alastair Gordon (along with a class of students he taught this semester at FIU), the exhibit Accidental Architect: Robert Motherwell, Pierre Chareau and the Quonset House of 1947 details the house that Chareau designed for the New York painter in East Hampton when the Hamptons were still affordable for artists.
Gordon obsessively photographed the house a week before it was destroyed in 1985. Quonset huts, of course, have a great legacy in America during war time, but this was not an ordinary metal unit but one tweaked and detailed by the master French architect.
The exhibit has some of Gordon’s beautiful detailed photographs of the structure that shows the outer limits of what can be accomplished with mass produced technology. We owe Gordon a debt not just for his obsessively detailed images, but the intelligence with which he put this show together.
Gordon tied it to Motherwell’s artistic conversation with the house and his Mexican-born wife, Maria Ferreira y Moyers, who was making her own experiments in art and prose and became, in effect, a “third collaborator” on the design of the house.
Barney Rosset, publisher of Grove Press, bought the property in 1952 and added incongruous cedar shingles and Spanish tiles. Despite many protests, the house was demolished in 1985 to make way for an “Adirondack-style” McMansion.
The exhibit is in the Main Gallery of the Miami Beach Urban Studios at 420 Lincoln Road, 4th Floor.