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Feb. 25, 2008 

The New School has unveiled its new Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at Fifth Avenue and 13th Street, a $14-million, 32,800-square-foot "urban quad" that includes a major gallery, an auditorium, a student lounge, two additional galleries and a street-front exhibition space for student work.

Carved out of four historic buildings by architect Lyn Rice (a member of the Dia:Beacon design team), the double-height, skylight-covered new center was made possible by $7 million from Sheila Johnson herself, a founder of the BET cable network who is now CEO of the Salamander Hospitality luxury resort chain and also managing partner of the WNBA Washington Mystics. She is a trustee of the New School and chair of the board of governors of Parsons the New School for Design. Other donors to the project, who have given their names to the gallery, the auditorium and a new archive, are Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen and Arnold and Sheila Aronson.

The center’s largest gallery features "Soft Parade: Selections from the New School Art Collection," Feb. 22-June 20, 2008, a bright and hard-hitting exhibition of works with political impact by David Hammons, General Idea, Jim Nutt and others. A second show documents a high-design, wooden park pavilion built in upstate New York by Parsons students, a rather incredible project. It’s called "Parsons Design Workshop: The Margaretville Pavilion," Feb. 22-Mar. 21, 2008.

Coming up are a contemporary design survey sponsored by I.D. Magazine in July and "Beholden, Besotted, Betwixt: Democracy in the Age of Branding," Oct. 9, 2008-Jan. 30, 2009, also featuring contemporary art and design. 

Visitors to the Museum of Modern Art’s latest design blockbuster, "Design and the Elastic Mind," Feb. 24-May 12, 2008, can scope out the "hot chair of the moment." According to Artnet Magazine design columnist Brook S. Mason the "must-have" furnishing is Joris Laarman’s Bone Chair (2006), a biomorphic aluminum seating unit that is formed using 3D software that mimics the biological growth of bones -- meaning that areas of higher stress develop more mass for increased strength.

Marketed with the slogan, "If evolution could create a chair. . . .," the Laarman Studio began manufacture of the chairs in 2007 for Droog in the Netherlands and Friedman Benda Gallery in New York. Laarman, a Dutch designer born in 1979, has also applied the technology to produce a Bone Chaise (2006) in clear polyurethane rubber. According to Friedman Benda, the edition of 12 is sold out. Word is that an example recently sold on the secondary market in London for around $100,000.

Something new is in store for New York’s Chelsea art district. Sonnabend Gallery on West 22nd Street is going to be transformed into a Paris apartment filled with over 100 examples of furniture, lighting and other designs by the seminal 20th-century designer Jean Royère (1902-81). The exhibition, which goes on view Mar. 8-Apr. 12, 2008, is designed by the Paris-based architect and designer India Mahdavi and organized by Patrick Seguin and Jacques Lacoste, both of whom have their own galleries in Paris.

Highlights include a straw marquetry bureau, a Flaque low table, a Visiteur du doir model settee, an Ours Polaire sofa, a Starlette bed and a variety of lighting fixtures, including the Persan, the Eiffel Tower and the Mushroom. Seguin has previously worked with Sonnabend for a Jean Prouvé retrospective (2003) and a show of furniture by Pierre Jeanneret (2006), both at the Chelsea gallery.

Fashionistas, take note. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts debuts the first retrospective of designs by the Algerian-born, Paris-based haute couture virtuoso Yves Saint Laurent, May 29-Sept. 28, 2008. The exhibition features 160 items drawn from the collection of more than 5,000 ensembles and 15,000 objects held by the Fondation Pierre Bergé -- Yves Saint Laurent (Bergé is, of course, Saint Laurent’s business partner).

The exhibition is divided into four sections. The first looks at Saint Laurent’s pencil sketches. The second, dubbed "The Palette," focuses on the designer’s "reversal" of traditional rules of color harmony. "Lyrical Sources" explores various influences, from Marcel Proust and Jean Cocteau to Impressionism and Pop Art. A fourth section, titled "The YSL Revolution," mixes feminized versions of men’s attire and more seductive women’s apparel.

The show is organized by French fashion historian Florence Muller, MMFA decorative arts curator Diane Charbonneau, and Jill D’Alessandro, a textile arts curator at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. After its appearance in Montreal, the show travels to the San Francisco museum, Nov. 1, 2008-Mar. 1, 2009.  

March sees the launch of a new design fair in New York. The New York Art & Design Fair, Mar. 27-31, 2008, brings 40 specialist dealers in art, design and antiques to the Park Avenue Armory at Park Avenue and East 67th Street. Exhibitors include Jacques De Vos (Paris), Framont (Greenwich, Conn.), Sundaram Tagore Gallery (New York) and Galerie Vivendi (Paris). Another participant is Magnificent Costume Jewels, which is based on East 87th Street in Manhattan. The show is put on by Westchester Enterprises Inc., which also organizes the Spring International Art & Antiques Show at the Armory in April. Entry is $20, and includes a show catalogue. More information at

New York City’s Museum of Sex on East 27th Street and Fifth Avenue has jumped on the contemporary design bandwagon, so to speak, with "Sex in Design / Design in Sex," Jan. 31-Apr. 27, 2008. Featuring an assortment of space-age sexual devices as well as a poster of Karim Rashid’s "Kairotic Karimsutra" lounger, the show itself is billed as designed to resemble the Museum of Modern Art’s architecture and design galleries. Adult admission to the museum is $14.50, plus tax.

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