Today I would like you to discover the new course of design collections of MAD, Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. The Museum which is close to my heart, where I return to very often. You can always discover something new and find many sources of inspiration.

This is the only museum in France which can offer such a vast panorama of the decorative arts – from the Middle Ages to the present day. I would like though to focus on the modern and contemporary design galleries, which include an impressive panorama of works from the 1940’s through to the present day.

The MAD unveils its newly remodelled Modern and Contemporary Design Galleries after a renovation in 2018.

Few words about…

A museum of Fashion, Arts and Design, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs has created a new circuit for its modern and contemporary collections. Favouring a more thematic approach, it places the works in their context by combining design and fashion, graphic design and archives, toys and wallpaper, glass and photography, in a new dialogue without creating any hierarchies. Varying the approaches this way, each space has been conceived around important moments in the life of forms, major personalities, often connected to the museum, movements that have marked the history of taste and of the object, whether it is a work of art or an industrial object. This circuit composes a “history of the museum” as it is reflected in its unusual identity and in its collections, which are never linear and are always changing. From digital humanism to the virtuosity of the gesture, it provides keys to understanding much of today’s world.

Boasting some 150,000 objects, the collections are privileged testaments to the French art of living, the savoir-faire of its craftsmen and industrialists, the research and creativity of its artists, the passion of its collectors, the generosity of our donors and the desire to pass these riches on to others. There is not a single technique, material or type of object that cannot be found in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs’ inventories: tiepin, escritoire, doll’s house, scenic wallpaper, stained glass, wood, enamel, plastic, shark’s skin and amaranth…the list is endless. Many criteria governed the selection of some 6,000 objects for permanent display, including their use, economy, craftsmanship, prowess and symbolism.


Design collections


Since the 2000s, with the arrival of digital tools, designers have freed themselves from the usual technical limitations and have gone beyond standardized shapes. Patrick Jouin is a pioneer with his chair Solid C2 created by stereolithography. Motion capture and drawing by hand, directly in space, has allowed furniture to be materialized by rapid prototyping, the Swedish collective Front has allowed passage from gesture to object.

Using 3D printing, the fashion designer Iris van Herpen also explores forms that are both unique and spectacular, bordering between science and design, Joris Laarman has in this way succeeded in reproducing the flight of a bird simulated by a cinema program while Olivier van Herpt has created new surface effects by applying this technology, not to resins but instead to ceramic.

Iris van Herpen – outfit n° 11, collection Cristallisation (prototype) – polyamide designed in association with the architect Daniel Widrig and 3D printed by.MGX by Materialise; skirt: skin, acrylic fringes

For the design of the polyamide bodice, the movement over seven days of a laser ray allowed polyamide powder to be condensed. At the end of the printing process, the solidified object is released from the powder by sandblasting. The process reinstates the digital drawing of the bodice in volume, evoking the waves around a submerged body. The fringes falling in cascades on the skirt refer also to the ancient decorative theme of aquatic femininity.

Olivier van Herpt – ceramics, objects 1,2,3 – Collection Functional 3D printing ceramics

Wallpaper “Zaha Hadid Hommage” – Zaha Hadid (1950-2016) England, 2015, Manufacture and distribution Marburg, Germany, 2016, Fleece paper, digital printing


The worldwide fame and multifaceted inventiveness of Philippe Starck should not make us forget the essential, his vision, irrespective of the form it takes makes life better to most people. This is why he is one of the pioneers and one of the central figures of the concept of “democratic design”.

By applying his prolific work to all domains, the products of our daily life (furniture, citrus press, electric bicycle, individual wind turbine), from architecture (hotels, restaurants that aspire to be stimulating places) to naval engineering (mega yachts), he has continually pushed back the limits and criteria of design, becoming one of the most popular creators of the international contemporary scene.

Juicy Salif lemon squeezer by Philippe Starck for Alessi

Chair La Marie (left) France, 1996, Édition Kartell, Italie, Poly-carbonate  – Fauteuil “Louis Ghost” (right) France, 2000, Édition Kartell, Italie, Poly-carbonate

Louis Ghost is inspired by a Louis XVI armchair with a medallion back that the designer has transformed into a contemporary chair. This chair is completely transparent, solid, and stackable and in addition to the advanced technology used, it has “this additional, memory”.


During the 1980s, Japanese design became the expression of a changing society where radical innovation was to be found alongside a strong attachment to traditions. The famous designer Issey Miyake revolutionized the fashion world with his cuts and pleats while the designer Shiro Kuramata, who was close to Italian theoreticians, played cleverly with poetry and the misappropriation of material.

In graphic work, Shigeo Fukuda stands out for his visual combinations of Japanese heritage and western spirit and Ikko Tanaka allies traditional Japanese motifs and geometric abstraction. While the artistic professions remain an area of excellence for ceramicists and glass makers, new sectors of creation have also become more important such as toys with companies such as Nintendo revolutionizing the universe of figurines and electronic games.

Yohij Yamamoto, wool dress, Japan, fall/winter 1990


Shiro Kuramata, armchair Sedia Seduta, Japan 1984 – Ishimaru Edition, resin, aluminium, stainless steel

Shiro Kuramata, armchair « How High The Moon » (1986) – wire mesh

Shiro Kuramata created poetic and refined objects to achieve dematerialization and weightlessness. The desire to surprise was so strong that he did not set any limits to the use of materials. He was faithful to his search for lightness when he designed How High the Moon where the designer has adopted the club chair model which he has transformed into an unclassifiable work, subtly orchestrated, made from emptiness and light, very far from a haven of comfort.

From left – 1. Mechanical Robot 1983, Printed Metal, plastic, batteries – 2. Goldorak 1978, Mattel, Plastic

The reconstruction of Japan during the 1950’s was achieved through industries such as toys, where simple objects could be made cheaply. They were often androids from the world of science-fiction, immediately connected to an epoch that was obsessed by the conquest of space. It was necessary however to have a lot of imagination, these robots being content to advance and move their arms, the rest of their marvellous functions being only a printed decoration. During the 1980’s, Japan became a major actor in the globalized toy market. In France, the appearance of Goldorak in 1978 began the domination of Japanese animation in children’s channels, which continued in France until the end of the Club Dorothée show in 1997. Exposed to advertising aimed directly at them, children have became influencers and consumers, and demand that by-products are bought, which has been a boon for Japanese toy makers.


Established in 1931, the Prisunic chain of stores democratized the universe of furniture and clothing at the end of the 1950’s, “Beauty for the price of ugliness” became the slogan created by Denise Fayolle, director of the style department from 1957 to 1967. A pioneer for its formula of mail order selling, in 1968 it published its first catalog skilfully displaying furniture, lighting, tableware and textiles. Each catalog was given to a designer who brought together creators such as the graphic designer Roman Cieslewicz and the photographer Peter Knapp. The first collection was designed by Terence Conran, the founder of Habitat in London in 1964, followed by Olivier Mourgue, Gae Aulenti, Marc Held and Jean-Pierre Garrault. The last catalog appeared in spring-summer 1976.

Bed with bedside tables and integrated bedside lamps, Marc Held 1970/1971, Distribution Prisunic, Thermoformed molded polyester, fiberglass

The designer, architect and photographer Marc Held worked from 1966 with Prisunic and designed a series of furniture in polyester reinforced with fibreglass for this company. This bed is an icon of the climax in the use of plastic to make furniture in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Like the Panton Chair (1960), the first chair to be made in a single piece, a mono-bloc group (bed and bedside tables are incorporated into a single unit) with rounded corners is obtained thanks to the use of moulded plastic.

Tables, stool and bench, Jacques Tissinier (1936-2018), made by Émaillerie Neuhaus, France, 1973, Beech, enameled steel

The artist Jacques Tissinier was asked by Prisunic to design a furniture collection. He applied to this group his techniques of enamelled steel used for urban furniture (bus shelters and signs made with the enamel maker Neuhaus). Interested in the strong impact of colour, he limited himself to primary colours and those of road signs. This furniture was presented in the Prisunic Autumn-Winter 1973-1974 catalog.


Prisunic 70’s promotional posters by Roman Cieslewicz


At the start of the 1960’s, the economic boom led to consumer society flourishing. Promoted by dynamic producers such as Kartell, Danese, Brionvega, Olivetti, Arteluce and Flos, Italien design rapidly enjoyed international recognition and success.

The industrial development of these companies was brought about by major personalities, Joe Colombo, Ettore Sottsass, the Castiglioni brothers, Enzo Mari… Going from multi-functional furniture to electrical appliances, their creations incarnate a democratic and modern vision of the everyday celebrated by the commercial and advertising networks of the time, and also by major exhibitions such as the Milan Triennial, in a post-war context imbued with a great need for novelty.

Hanging light, Ettore Sottsass (1917- 2007) Italy, 1957, manufactured by Arredoluce, Painted metal, Perspex

An architect by training, Ettore Sottsass was recognised for his talents as a designer from the 1950’s. He was one of the founding members of the postmodernist group Memphis of the 1980’s.

This suspending light, produced by one of the most innovative makers of lights in Italy of the 1950’s and 1960’s, is one of his first works. A veritable luminous sculpture, it already shows its creator’s style: dynamic graphic shapes, bright colours and a combination of materials.

Pipistrello Lamp, Gae Aulenti 1965

The shape of the lamp is inspired by the silhouette of a pipistrelle (bat, pipistrello in Italian). In art nouveau style. It is considered today as one of the key objects of industrial design.

 The Arco Lamp, Pier Giacomo and Achille Castiglioni for Flos, 1962.

The lamp is characterized by a suspended spun aluminum pendant attached to an upright slab of Carrara marble via a large, arching arm made of stainless steel. The lamp has been in constant production since its original release in 1962.


The arts and crafts engineer, Steph Simon (1902-1982), originally a commercial agent for l’Aluminium Français, opened his gallery in 1956 at 145, boulevard Saint-Germain in Paris. A veritable precursor in the promotion of modern furniture he created a design office there and attracted the most innovative designers of the time, such as Charlotte Perriand and Jean Prouvé, to whom he gave projects for private and industrial design as well as the creation of exclusive models for the gallery.

He also circulated lights, including Serge Mouille’s spider lights, the paper lanterns of Isamu Noguchi and also ceramic by Georges Jouve and weaving by Simone Prouvé. Frequented by rare and elitist clients, the gallery, one of the most audacious of the time, nevertheless closed its doors in 1974.


Lamp “Akari 25N” Isamu Noguchi, Japan, 1960, Steph Simon edition, Mulberry paper from Japan, lacquered steel thread
On the right  – Charlotte Perriand, Lampe de chevet, wall lamps, plastic and painted metal, 1960

In 1963, Steph Simon received the exclusive rights to the series Akari (“light”) in Japanese, lights made from paper and metallic thread which Isamu Noguchi began to make in the early 1950s.

The “washi” paper generally handcrafted using mulberry bark, similar to traditional Japanese lanterns and partitions, gives a poetic aspect and diffuses subdued light that the lamp materializes, in this way creating a sculptural piece.

Wall bookcase “Nuage” by Charlotte Perriand, France, 1953, Solid ash, lacquered aluminium. Armchair by Jean Prouvé, France 1934/35 and office desk Presidence, France 1950

Charlotte Perriand’s second trip to Japan in 1953 led to new furniture (including the bookcase Nuage) intended for the exhibition “Proposition d’une synthèse des Arts, Paris 1955, Le Corbusier, Fernand Léger, Charlotte Perriand”, which opened in April 1955 at the Takashimaya stores in Tokyo. The designer enriched her repertoire there with references to Japanese culture: emphasis on low lines, confirmation that the standardization of modules does not mean monotony.

Jean Prouvé achieves one of the most spectacular office desk among the many pieces of furniture he has designed. “Présidence” Desk design derives from the “Haricot” design, created by the Jean Prouvé in 1948 for the Brussels Post Office Center. It is both ergonomic by the curved shape of its tray and practice by its hanging sheath with drawers.

To be continued …


Musée des Arts Décoratifs
107, rue de Rivoli
75001 Paris


Opening times
Tuesdays to Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
• Open until 9 p.m. on Thursdays (Temporary Exhibitions only).
• Closed on Mondays, December 25, January 1, May 1 each year.