“EPIC: Feats of Argentine Design” is a multi-format curatorial program aimed at reviewing a century of design history through the exploration of the IDA Foundation collection and other archives. This is the second submission of the first chapter “1920–1940”, which examines the shift from a stylistic culture to modernist architecture and design expressions.
#Epic Anniversary | Peronism Inaugurated
The first presidential term of General Juan Domingo Perón (1946-1952) began on June 4, 1946, following an intense electoral campaign that revolved around his political role. The self-proclaimed Justicialist Movement, conceived an unprecedented political, social, and cultural project that implied a considerable participation of the State as a way to diversify public services, acquire private companies, and boost industrial development in several spheres. The program, aimed at promoting a better economic redistribution, contemplated the production of consumer goods and teaching material for educative purposes, the professionalization of trades, and the implementation of social architecture projects –neighborhoods, schools, resorts, and orphanages–. Its political propaganda system, led by the Undersecretary of Information, Press and Propaganda, promoted work as the valuable force behind national progress in radio broadcasts, TV speeches, and graphic pieces. Simultaneously, such messages were used as social instruction methods aimed to teach literacy and encourage popular activism. The communication strategy turned both Juan Domingo Perón and Evita (Eva María Duarte) into idols, thus polarizing society until today.
#EpicAnniversary | San Juan Earthquake
On January 15, 1944 an earthquake in San Juan killed 5.000 people and destroyed 80% of the city. In response to the disaster, Mendoza –the neighboring province– offered its hospital network. The erection of the Central Hospital (which had begun in 1937), led by the architects Manuel and Arturo Civit, was quickly finished and immediately opened its doors. The institution was one of several public buildings in the region that displayed elements of the rationalist movement in architecture. In San Juan, the earthquake prompted urgent intervention based on an unparalleled urban plan. The new project took into account the anti-seismic building protocols of the Andes range area. The San Juan Re-Building Administration launched a contest to select the best plan. Several technical teams, like Austral Group, participated. The design of the architect José María Pastor stood out and inaugurated the re-building effort. Within the academic sphere, the San Juan School of Architecture (linked to UNCUYO) was created in 1950, backed by a signed petition and the graphic campaign "a", to fulfill the need to local specialists. Alongside the construction of houses and institutions, design flourished in several dimensions. The constructivist principles influenced education, from kindergarten onwards.
#EpicContext | Metal-Mechanic Industry Development
The first half of the XXth century was defined by an intense industrialization process led by the State. Based on the import substitution model, the State promoted the public and private development of the metal-mechanic industry by boosting the internal market and mass scale production. As a bridge between production and consumption, design participated from the technological processes linked to serial production, the development of high complexity products, and the marketing system. Around 1950, Argentina achieved the highest level of technologization in Latin America. The State’s integral plan included the production of raw material, technical training for workers –aided by new technical and industrial trade schools–, and a mass production and distribution program. The value chain linked every element, from the raw materials to the final product and that was possible due to the development of a steel industry –Acindar, 1942; Techint, 1945– that produced the supplies required by the metal-mechanic, automotive, building, agricultural, and hydrocarbon sectors.
The public sector grew due to the State’s acquisition of existing companies and services like Argentine Railways (1948) –previously control by British capital- and the creation of new ones: State Gas Company (1945), Water and Energy (1947), State Telephone Company (1948), and Argentine Airlines (1949), all managed by the National Administration of State Industries (DINIE). Other relevant, similar companies were FM, Military Products State Society (1941) –for national defense and sovereignty– and IAME, Aeronautical and Mechanical State Industries (1952). IAME, whose 9.000 workers were in charge of producing “Puma” motorcycles (c. 1952), “Pampa” tractors (c. 1952), and the “Justicialista” sports car (1953).
YPF, Fiscal Oil Reservoirs, was created in 1922 with the purpose of extracting and selling oil nationwide. In collaboration with the Argentine Auto Club and the National Roadways Administration, the company has implemented since 1930 an improvement plan and an effective brand image. In terms of advertising, the graphic symbol of YPF has been successfully adapted to several scales in multiple sale venues, thus matching different architecture styles: rationalist, art deco, and picturesque. The public institutions of that historical period showed through their graphic emblems –that reminded military crests– a strong and solid communication system. Such identity models were replicated by big private companies.
Siam Di Tella (1910) was founded as an Italian Society of Mechanical Mixers. In 1912, it produced the first Argentine gas pump, a creation that would spread alongside all YPF stations nationwide. Around 1929, the company established a 96.300 m2 factory in Avellaneda, Buenos Aires, where it produced pumps for water works and oil fields, electric motors, and other items. In its pinnacle, the company produced the Siambretta motorcycles (c. 1954) and the vehicle Siam Di Tella 1500 (1960). While it consolidated a network of commercial representatives, the company established its own stores. In 1952, the company opened a store in Florida street (Buenos Aires), in the same block where the renowned Institute Torcuato Di Tella would be located (1958-1970).
#EpicContext | The Commercial Cry: Modern Advertising
As modern lifestyles developed, new products for social consumption originated. Status and life standard were shown in the cars, appliances, houseware, trendy clothes, cosmetics, and recreational products, such as cigarettes and alcoholic beverages, people bought. Publicity, delivered through posters and radio jingles, boosted products and brands. The visual and textual worldview created by advertising modelled the identity of big companies like Philips, Siemens, Sublime cigarettes and Paris, Cinzano, Bols, Fernet Branca, Aguila Chocolate, Canale, Bagley, and Terrabusi. Some of these brands even had its own Poster Contests.
The “first” advertising agency in the country was created in 1898 by the Austrian businessman Juan Ravenscroft, aimed at commercializing ad spaces in train stations and rail cars. During the first three decades of the XXth century, new, pioneer agencies opened. Companies like Severo Vaccaro, Aymará, Albatros, Exitus, Cosmos, and Estudios Wismer sold ad modules and showcased the work of such creators as Lucien Achille Mauzan (Geniol Advertising) and Romeo Landini (Pum en el ojo Agency). In the 1930’s, the capital city allured important international companies like J. Walter Thompson, Lintas and McCann Erickson, firms that shook the Argentine market with avant-garde proposals that were gradually neglected as WWII progressed. During the war juncture, independent, local agencies, managed by their owners: Ricardo De Luca (Tan Publicity), Pueyrredón Propaganda, Yuste Publicity, emerged. Those firms were the breeding ground of remarkable creators who were widely recognized for their individual production during the following decades.
The field grew stronger in an institutional way due to the foundation of the Argentine Publicity Circle (1927), the AAAP, Argentine Association of Publicity Agencies (1933), and the IVC, Transaction Verifier Institute (1946), associations that set criteria and promoted the discipline. Since the 1950’s, publicity grew even stronger due to the proliferation of academic institutions that trained experts in publicity drawing and propaganda theory. All these events contributed to the massification of print culture and modern publicity, elements that had already invaded the urban space.
All types of advertising formats changed, including the classified ads that incorporated slogans and persuasive mottos and the street posters –which highlighted decorative illustrations–, which eventually developed into poster-panels and printed graphic publicity. With the arrival of new printing technologies, “graphic announcements” were professionalized by the creation of composition and perception guidelines. Concepts like layout –diagramming ad elements–, advertising spiral –view trajectory– or hook –targeting reading–, emerged. Representation techniques expanded as photography was added to traditional options like engraving, illustration, and painting. Drawing letters –lettering– for titles and chapter openings became a specialized skill. The process of producing original copies based on sketches or rough drafts for later selection and reproduction became a common practice. Such dynamics required the participation of a group of specialists that included: sketch artists, letter designers, illustrators, cartoonists, photographers, retouchers, and layout artists.
#EpicaContext | Migrant Style
As a consequence of WWI and WWII, immigrants trained in several professions -architects, designers, and photographers- arrived in the country, Formed in European schools of design, applied, and fine arts, they brought with them their cultural baggage. In this context, Martin Eisler (Vienna, 1913-Sao Paulo, 1977) stands out, a jewish exile from an intellectual family trained at Vienna's School of Fine Arts who emigrated to Argentina forcibly in 1938 where he dedicated himself to the design of furniture, scenography and architecture. In 1945, he founded the company Intérieur, alongside Arnold Hackel. Between 1951-1953, another Austrian immigrant, Susi Freurd de Aczel, also joined the firm. They created Interieur Forma in 1959, a firm that represented the furniture company Knoll International, and exploited the potential of serial furniture production. Afterwards, Eisler opened the Atelier house. He incorporated exotic, local woods in his designs and experimented with varnished wood, glass, and brass techniques. His most renowned piece is the “Costilla” seat, inspired in American styles of the time.
The Viennese brothers Walter and Hermann Loos, greatly influenced the development of Argentine design. Walter Loos (Vienna, 1905-Buenos Aires, 1974) studied at the School of Higher Studies in Applied Arts of Vienna. Prior to his arrival in Argentina, where he escaped from WWII, he had an active career in Europe. He had married fashion designer Fridl Loos in New York and the couple settled in Buenos Aires in the 1940's. Fridl Loos (Austria, 1907-Buenos Aires, 2000) drew inspiration from the NOA landscapes to create traditional models, like the poncho and barracan, that combined diverse fabrics and textile genres. She designed her stores -located in Santa Fe street and inside Pacífico Shopping Mall- alongside his spouse. Hermann Loos studied architecture and arrived in the country in the 50's and joined his brother’s Atelier endeavor. He opened his own decoration and design studio focused on producing multi-functional equipment.
Frenchman Jean Michel Frank (Paris, 1895-New York, 1941) was a revolutionary designer who innovated in the fields of set decoration and luxury pieces production in partnership with. Adolphe Chanaux. With WWII underway, Frank went into exile in Argentina supported by Ignacio Pirovano, with whom he collaborated by producing several designs for the Llao Llao Hotel project developed by the firm Comte and Alejandro Bustillo.
Grete Stern (Germany, 1904-Buenos Aires, 1999) and Horacio Coppola (Buenos Aires, 1906-2012) met in 1932 while attending a photography class at the Bauhaus (the Berlin branch). Between 1935 and 1937, being a stable couple, they escaped to London and, later, they migrated to Argentina, fleeing from the Nazi regime. Upon arrival, they opened the photography and advertising studio “Grete and Horacio Coppola”, where they both worked and developed innovative editing techniques such as the ”photo-type”, which merged photographic and typography procedures. They successfully put into practice their skills for both commercial and artistic purposes.
#EpicHighlights | BKF Seat
The name “BKF”, a piece designed in 1938, honors the creators Antonio Bonet, Juan Kurchan and Jorge Ferrari Hardoy –members of Austral Group and disciples of Le Corbusier–. The innovative design drew inspiration from the Tripolina (1877) chair, conceived by Joseph Fenby as a foldable seat. The seat stood out for its relaxing ergonomic characteristics meant to be used by young artists in their downtown Buenos Aires work spaces. The BKF was made of a welded and painted round steel structure and a tight canvas or leather element carved in four parts to enable the best adaptation to human bodies. Some may consider it a modern sculpture that foreshadowed concrete art. The seat’s peculiarities made it efficient both indoors and outdoors, thus turning it into a flexible use piece. This premise is promoted in the magazine Nuestra Arquitectura (1939), where the third manifesto of Austral Group was published. In the same issue, the BKF is presented as both a furniture and ornamental piece that represents “an updated architecture”.
A few years later, the seat was recognized by cultural institutions locally and worldwide. It won the contest “3rd. Showcase of Decorator Artists” in Buenos Aires (1940) and the acquisitions award of the New York Modern Art Museum (1941). In 1958, the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology ranked it among the 100 best industrial designs of the modern era.
In Argentina, the authors themselves produced it, later, it was reproduced by the company Six (formed by Juan Kurchan) and the Charcas Group (led by Celina Arauz during the 60’s). The seat traveled to the USA to be featured in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Waterfall House; it was later produced in that country by Knoll International. Known there as the Butterfly chair, it became an icon of California lifestyle. Its massive production –sometimes in an unauthorized way, including a demountable and foldable version–– gave way to different names: Sitting, African Chair, Continuo, Argentino, Pampeano, Latino, and the Hardoy or Bonet chair. Donated by Victoria Bonet to IDA Foundation, the BKF prototype returned to Argentina after spending six decades in Barcelona.
#EpicHighlights | Cultural Management: Ignacio Pirovano
Ignacio Pirovano (Paris, 1909-Buenos Aires, 1980) was an iconic actor of Argentine cultural renewal during the first half of the XX century. The lawyer, entrepreneur, and cultural manager studied art in Paris, during the pinnacle of European avant-garde movements. Upon his return to Argentina he founded the company Comte, alongside Ricardo, his architect brother, and his colleagues José Enrique Tívoli and Mariano Mansilla Moreno. The firm produced stylish furniture and decorative objects during a time when international furniture companies, such as Nordiska Kompaniet from Sweden and the British firm Maple, arrived to the South American market. Comte’s unique style was shown in its “fine taste” pieces that were featured in private houses, public institutions, and commercial establishments. The company had stores in Buenos Aires City, Mar del Plata, and Mendoza.
At first, Comte’s furniture followed the European Louis XVI style, while being the representative in Argentina of the Parisian firm Frank, Chanaux & Co., property of Pirovano’s friend, Jean Michel Frank. In 1937, Comte partnered with the architect Alejandro Bustillo to produce one of the most relevant pieces: The Llao Llao Hotel (Bariloche) inside the recently designated National Park. In that project, Bustillo and Frank (who lived in Argentina for a few years) designed all the equipment for suites, common areas, leisure rooms, and balconies, among other spaces. They used local woods and animal skins. The identity-related elements were suggested by Pirovano –keen on regional peculiarities– and were implemented in the design of other hotels across the country.
In 1937, Pirovano became the first Director of the National Museum of Decorative Art. Between 1951-1953, he acted as President of the National Culture Committee. As a supporter of cultural renewal, he collaborated with Tomás Maldonado, an icon of concrete art and modern principles. Maldonado’s pieces were displayed in the gallery owned by Comte in 953 Florida Street and Pirovano summoned him –alongside architects Horacio Baliero and Juan Manuel Borthagaray– to found the Furniture Design Center in 1049. The intellectual link between Pirovano and Maldonado lasted even after the latter migrated to Germany, from where he advised Pirovano on how to assemble his private collection.
#EpicHighlights | Applied Art: Lucrecia Moyano
Lucrecia Moyano (Buenos Aires, 1902-1998) was a versatile artist, designer, and decorator, as well as a key figure of Argentine material culture due to her expertise in applied arts based on glass and textile design. Her pieces stand out for their decorative and practical elements. The mastery shown in her watercolor and oil paintings captivated Alejandro Bustillo and Louis Fourvel Rigolleau, among many others. Bustillo, the architect, hired her to produce pieces for the Llao Llao Hotel in Bariloche, while Rigolleau offered her the artistic direction of his company’s glass section, founded in 1882 and established in Berazategui. Moyano was the artistic director of the Rigolleau glass factory from 1934 to 1962.
In those 30 years, she exploited her creativity at an industrial scale by designing for mass production and creating unique pieces based on drawing, blown and carved glass techniques that used special pigments. Beginning in 1954, she designed fabrics for the firms Dandolo y Primi and El Espartano, while decorating emblematic buildings –such as Harrods department store, the headquarters of the Rural Society of Argentina, and the Plaza Hotel– with her unique style. Her pieces, renowned in Europe and the United States, were exhibited at the Universal Exposition in Paris (1937), the World Fair in New York (1939), the Modern Art Museum in Rio de Janeiro (1957), the New York Metropolitan Museum (1959), and the Smithsonian Institute in Washington (1959). The exhibition “Lucrecia Moyano, a life devoted to glass and textiles” was showcased in 1994 at the National Museum of Decorative Arts. IDA Foundation preserves and protects glass pieces and sketches of Moyano’s textile designs, settings, and glass art in one of the least explored collections within the field of Argentine material culture.
#Epic #Expert Opinion | Levisman + Villanueva
Martha Levisman is an architect, historian, and archivist specialized in the modern movement and the work of authors such as Alejandro Bustillo, who renovated stylish decoration during the ‘30’s. During the month of May, we will discuss with her about the furniture companies that changed styles and decoration nationwide.
Santiago Villanueva is a conceptual artist and contemporary art curator specialized in research about historical archives. Profiting from his expertise in postal communication, we will talk about the design of the National Postal Savings Bank and mail art.
EXTENSION | Bonomi Fund
We proudly announce the arrival of the José Lucio Bonomi (Italy, 1903-Buenos Aires, 1992) collection to our archive via donation. Bonomi was a renowned painter, engraver, set designer, decorator, publicist, and fine arts teacher. Trained in Spain and France, he established connections with celebrated artists of his time, such as the Paris Group. Back in Buenos Aires, he participated in a graphic artists’ movement aimed at renewing the field of publishing by controlling a complex process that included the creation of cover art and illustrations.
Some graphic artwork made by Bonomi for Emecé Printing House are found within the collection that has been incorporated to the Patrimonial Collection: three original sketches displaying a tempera and ink technique. Those master copies were adapted and used to produce covers for books such as El árbol derribado by Margarita Abella Caprile (1959) and Descubrimientos experimentales by Giovanni Papini (1961). This is a priceless set of pieces and documents that will be duly safeguarded by IDA Foundation.
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