For the 1937 Paris International Exposition, the Austrian architect Josef Hoffmann—cofounder of the Wiener Werkstätt—imagined a star and created her dressing room: a modernist, mirrored chamber that even the greatest narcissist would find satisfying. Now, AD100 architect Annabelle Selldorf and firm partner Sara Lopergolo have designed an exhibition around the so-called “Boudoir d’une Grande Vedette” at the Corning Museum of Glass in upstate New York. In their contemporary setting, a re-creation of Hoffmann’s historic gesamtkunstwerk, along with 172 works of Austrian glass from 1900 to 1937, are on display now through January 7, 2019.
All objects in “Glass of the Architects: Vienna, 1900–1937,” from the delicately stemmed wine glasses to the bronzite flower boxes, serve both decorative and functional purposes. All are also by architects, fitting for the choice of Selldorf as exhibit designer, who has myriad experience creating temporary decorative and fine arts exhibits, as well as permanent museums displays. (Most recently, her architectural expansion for New York’s The Frick museum was approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, and her firm will reinstall Atlanta’s High Museum of Art collections this fall.) For this show, though, it was her knowledge of the objects that informed the design. “We appreciated the focus on the theme of architects designing decorative objects and felt that we could contribute a clarity of display and circulation to underscore this theme,” says the architect, who last created a glass-themed exhibition at the Museum in 2016 and has worked with similar Austrian decorative objects at the Neue Galerie in New York and Le Stanze del Ventro in Venice, Italy.
Her firm, therefore, centered the show around the mirrored “Boudoir” (visitors see a preview of the room at the start of the show, and then it is fully revealed as one explores the exhibit) with objets d’art in freestanding or wall-inset vitrines. Original sketches, furniture, and photographs of finished buildings by the featured architects provide context for their decorative works. Black lacquered frames keep displays simple so the glassworks are the focus. The show is a celebration of the detail and quality of each work, explains Lopergolo. When designing exhibitions, Selldorf Architects takes a research-based approach, she says: “It requires learning about the specificities of each piece.”