Monday, April 23, 2012

Masterpieces in acrylic

An early 1660s French silver fountain, with later English alterations

When a museum removes an object from its galleries it usually leaves a slip of paper or a temporary label explaining why the piece is not on view. But not at at the Getty! Nope, they craft fantastic laser cut-acrylic silhouettes of each piece. It's genius—and I wish they were available for purchase.

The design world's seen a long history of Lucite and acrylic furnishings (perfected by the brilliant Charles Hollis Jones in the 1960s and 70s, I might add—full editorial disclosure: he's a pal) and the early aughts saw something of a resurgence with Philippe Starck's Louis chairs, Yee-Ling Wan's Ghost clock, and White Webb's Clearly Classic line... but because those are functional pieces they're recreations of the original form, not just a simple silhouette.

There's something at once mysterious and refreshing about negative space. The Getty's placeholders, we'll call them, also suggest the fragility of these historic objects—once they're gone, they're gone. And I'm absolutely enthralled by the romantic notion of a tangible intangible.



One of four gilt-bronze wall lights by Francois-Thomas Germain (Paris, 1756) from the collection of  Marie-Antoinette.

The beautiful, eerie silhouette of the deinstalled wall light.

All of the pieces seen in this post are currently on view in The Life of Art: Context, Collecting, and Display. The image tweeted is a pair of circa 1660 Japanese porcelain bowls with English gilt-metal mounts.