The Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo is proud to stage Japan's first major retrospective of the work of Oscar Niemeyer (1907-2012), father of Brazilian modernist architecture.
The unique creativity of Niemeyer's designs for prominent buildings in his native Brazil earned him tributes both at home and abroad, including a raft of architectural awards such as the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal, Pritzker Architecture Prize, and Japan's Praemium Imperiale as well as the International Lenin Peace Prize. "Oscar Niemeyer - The Man Who Built Brasilia" will present a comprehensive overview - incorporating plans, models, photographs and video footage - of close to a century of architectural design by the legendarily charismatic Niemeyer, who was still indefatigably turning out new designs right up to his death at the age of 104.
Born in Rio de Janeiro, Oscar Niemeyer studied architecture at Rio's National School of Fine Arts before going on to work with his mentor Lúcio Costa. Following an encounter with Le Corbusier, Niemeyer worked with the modernist master in the design of the Ministry of Education and Health in Rio de Janeiro (1936) under the coordination of Lúcio Costa.
Already famous in his own right after having designed Pampulha architectural complex, Niemeyer worked with Le Corbusier again in designing the United Nations Headquarters in New York (1947). Niemeyer's greatest achievement however would have to be the building of the new capital Brasilia, Brazil's preeminent national project of the 1950s. Designing several of the major buildings (including the National Congress building and Cathedral of Brasília), Niemeyer created a city of the imagination. The triumph of Brasilia took on historical significance above and beyond its architectural brilliance, raising Brazil's international profile, and in 1987, earning its unique capital World Heritage status. During the country's military regime of the 1960s, Niemeyer moved to Paris and based his practice there for 20 years, returning to his native land in 1985 and continuing to work prolifically, at the same time endeavoring to nurture his successors.
Born to Russian Jewish parents in Moldova in 1930, Maria Pergay fled to Paris with her mother during World War II. Following her studies in costume, set design, and sculpture at the Institut des Hautes Études Cinématographiques, she built her career as a shop window designer through the 1950s, eventually receiving commissions from major brands like Dior and Hermès. In 1960, she opened an atelier in the Marais district of Paris, selling her own creations, primarily silverwork, directly to the public.
As Pergay began to explore furniture making in the late 1960s, she also became drawn to stainless steel, the material that is now most associated with her work. By the 1970s, she was attracting international clients, including Salvador Dalí, Pierre Cardin, and Saudi Prince Abdullah, and in the ’80s and ’90s, received several important commissions in Russia. Today she continues to design interiors and produce limited-edition works, almost always incorporating her beloved stainless steel.
Last weekend, while New York City was overrun by design enthusiasts in town for the International Contemporary Furniture Fair, Maria Pergay, a 79-year-old Parisian furniture designer relatively unknown in this country, was ensconced in a nautical modernist room at the Maritime Hotel. She was in New York not for the furniture fair — an event, it turns out, that she has never heard of — but to show her latest work at the Demisch Danant gallery in Chelsea (including a sofa of broken bricks she is shown sitting on). Those expecting a woman of her age to produce soft, feminine, upholstered pieces appropriate for a Paris pied-à-terre may be surprised by what has been Ms. Pergay’s material of choice for decades: stainless steel.