Coming Soon: Alexander Girard: A Designer’s Universe at Palm Springs Art Museum

Organized By Vitra Design Museum, The Exhibition Featuring More Than 700 Objects

Inspired By Folk Art And Pop Art, Girard Created A Bold, Colorful, And Charismatic Universe.

Alexander Girard (Born in May 24, 1907 in New York City, NY and died on December 31, 1993 in Santa Fe, New Mexico) was one of the most important and prolific designers of the 20th century. He created stunning interiors for restaurants, private homes, corporate offices, and even airplanes! He created textiles, typography, and tableware. He designed exhibitions, toys, and a whole city street in Columbus, Indiana. Inspired by folk art and pop art, Girard created a bold, colorful, charismatic universe. He warmed up modernism with his whimsical, optimistic patterns and designs.

The Palm Springs Art Museum (101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92262, 760-322-4800) has announced the West Coast debut of Alexander Girard: A Designer’s Universe. This exhibition, organized by Vitra Design Museum, presents the colorful universe of Alexander Girard through more than 400 objects—textiles, drawings, furniture, graphics, film, and folk art—in a richly layered installation and accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue. Exhibition visitors will experience one of his best-known interiors—that of the 1957 Miller House in Columbus, Indiana—through a full-scale replica of its iconic conversation pit, which will be a place for repose and public programs.

The show will be on view from November 23, 2019 through March 1, 2020.

Practicing from the late 1920s until the late 1970s, Girard worked mostly for the American furniture company Herman Miller after becoming director of its textile division in 1951. Girard’s clients also included companies like Braniff International Airways and John Deere for which he created fresh new corporate brand identities, which, in the case of Braniff, extended from the planes themselves to the flight crew uniforms and passenger lounges. In addition to Girard’s own designs, this exhibition presents the creative universe from which Girard took his inspiration: folk art from all over the world, which the designer collected throughout his life. A selection of 300 objects from his folk art collection, gifted by him to the International Folk Art Museum in Santa Fe, is also featured in the exhibition.

The Palm Springs Art Museum was founded in 1938 as the Palm Springs Desert Museum at La Plaza in downtown Palm Springs. Natural science exhibits, Cahuilla Indian artifacts, and hiking excursions dominated the institution’s programming.

The museum moved several times within the downtown Palm Springs area before building its first permanent structure in 1958, located on the southwest corner of Tahquitz-McCallum Way and Indian Ave. Over the years, fine art gained a greater measure of focus.

By the late 60’s it was evident the 10,000 square foot building was quickly becoming too small. In 1974, architect E. Stewart Williams was commissioned to design the current building for the museum. Further growth resulted in the construction of the Doris and Walter N. Marks Administration Building and the 1996 completion of the Steve Chase Wing and the Education Center.

Major renovations, and even bigger donations of art, transformed the institution, which also sharpened its programming with nationally significant exhibitions. In April 2004, the Board of Trustees decided to shift the museum’s focus from a multi-disciplinary museum to a world-class art museum with a vibrant theater program. In evaluating the current strengths and directions of the museum, it became clear that the art collections were growing and that the art audience was expanding – primarily in the areas of architecture, photography, and contemporary glass.

A study of the area’s other institutions also brought a realization that there were other established organizations providing exhibitions in the natural sciences. One year later, in April 2005, the museum officially changed its name from Palm Springs Desert Museum to Palm Springs Art Museum to reflect its emphasis on the visual and performing arts.

The museum remains committed to serving as an innovative community cultural center, and expanding its exhibitions, programs, and services in the visual and performing arts.

In 2012, the museum opened a satellite exhibition and education space in Palm Desert (Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert, 72-567 Highway 111, Palm Desert, CA 92260, 760-346-5600), which features an architecturally distinctive building named The Galen that presents ongoing and temporary exhibitions of internationally important art and is surrounded by the Faye Sarkowsky Sculpture Garden that features significant sculpture works surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens.

In 2011, the museum purchased the Santa Fe Federal Savings & Loan building designed by E. Stewart Williams in 1960. Located in downtown Palm Springs, it was reopened as the Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center, Edwards Harris Pavilion (300 S Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92262, 760-423-5260) in 2014.

This hub of the museum’s exploration of architecture and design features related exhibitions and educational programs.

The collection also includes Frey House II, the historically significant residence in Palm Springs that architect Albert Frey designed for himself in 1963 and bequeathed to the museum upon his death in 1998.

Accredited by the American Association of Museums, the Palm Springs Art Museum has 28 galleries, two sculpture gardens, four classrooms, a resource centers, an artists center, five storage vaults, a 85-seat lecture hall, a 433-seat theater, a 1,000 square-foot store, and a popular local bistro.

A variety of educational programs and activities will take place in connection to the Palm Springs iteration; additionally, the museum’s annual gala and biggest fundraiser on January 26, 2020 will be Girard themed in décor and ambience to bring even greater attention to the exhibition.

Alexander Girard: A Designer’s Universe‘s global sponsors are Herman Miller and Maharam. Palm Springs Art Museum’s presentation is organized by Brooke Hodge, Director of Architecture and Design, with generous support from Joan & Gary Gand. Additional support is provided by Ellen Donaldson.