Introducing 20th Century and Contemporary Design

30 Sep 2021

20th Century and Contemporary Design Presented By Joy McCall 

We inhabit design. Whether were sitting at a desk by IKEA or Jean Prouvé, on an Eames chair or something generic, the essential nature of these objects remains the same. But design can be more than merely functional, and function can transcend form. How we live with the objects that furnish our lives affects us in meaningful ways: in how we use them, how they shape the spirit of our surroundings, and the way we move within their orbit. The most outstanding pieces are works of art in their own right.


The visionaries of 20th-century and contemporary design — what Carlo Mollino called the poets and mathematicians’ — sought practical solutions to navigate the modern world. Some, like Mollino, who was one of Italys most influential and idiosyncratic designers, were purists who created unique furnishing for individual commissions. Others chose broader briefs and made blueprints for mass production, design as a template for living. The most versatile were many things: inventors, tastemakers and collectors whose work embraced everything from cutlery to urban master-planning. These designers looked to the future in a very direct way, often informed by an innate sensitivity to the past and present.


This is because design can never be isolated from the world that surrounds it. The art of the period, the architecture, the social codes – even the music that settled over the furniture – all form part of great designers’ conceptions. From the Symbolism (and industrial revulsion) that saw nature at its most sensual curving through Art Nouveau designs, to the angular utopianism of the Modernists and the colourful, ironic, intellectualism of Post-Modernism, design encapsulates time, place and culture.


Starting September, Christies Education will present 20th Century and Contemporary Design, a six-week filmed online course highlighting the major styles, designers and masterpieces of the era. Led by auction house specialist Joy McCall, the design and interiors course will examine developments in technology, art and architecture and its impact on design practice, through in-depth lectures and exclusive interviews with key figures in the industry. Participants in the online course will also be provided with a Christie’s Education certificate of completion.


Each session is structured to focus on a different period of aesthetic and technological innovation, its defining characteristics and central protagonists — essential knowledge for collectors and those interested in contemporary interior design. ‘The biggest reward will come simply from taking the time to stop and look at pieces of design and considering them in their rich cultural and historical contexts,’ Joy says about the course. ‘We still encounter many of these styles and objects today, or live with the benefit of their influence.’


For more than 250 years, Christies has celebrated all manner of artistic excellence, enabling clients to engage with, and delight in, objects from a diversity of cultures, from different eras, in contrasting materials and in vastly different forms. The 20th Century and Contemporary Design course brings to life some of these objects, as well as the spaces that have illuminated the world of interiors. My passion for design is linked to my love of visual art,’ Joy reflects, ‘The fact that design is also useful makes it all the more appealing. I love the history behind the pieces and the way influences and technological developments can be seen to have a bearing.’


Presented by Joy McCall 

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