Contemporary designers in dialogue with 'Jean Arp. The Invention of Form'

VIZO Design Department and Centre for Fine Arts Brussels
link to website

Saturday May 22, 2004

Jean Arp (Strasbourg, 1886 – Basle, 1966), a fundamental figure in the art of the twentieth century, had a considerable impact on design aesthetics. The influence of Arp’s organic relief sculptures on the glass and furniture objects designed by Alvar Aalto during the 1930s is well-known. Besides, Arp’s sculptures were of great significance for the organic modernist design of the 1950s.
Even without a direct influence on design, Arp’s work has the capacity to give rise to an interesting dialogue with contemporary designers. His reliefs and sculptures are no reproductions but productions, are not conceived as an art of figuration but as an art of configuration. For Arp his art was ‘concrete’. He rejected the conventions of the tradition and used creative mechanisms which looked for the innovation of form, for the exploration of new and unusual materials, for the transformation of one form into another. He played with chance, humour and harmony and with form for form’s sake. His reliefs and sculptures are real objects in a real world and are part of the space inhabited by the viewer. Being art, Arp’s creations are designs with obvious tactile qualities. It’s a strategy to integrate art and life.

On Saturday the 22nd of May, 2004, the VIZO Design Department and the Centre for Fine Arts Brussels offer the possibility to visit the exhibition “Jean Arp. The Invention of Form” (Centre for Fine Arts Brussels) from a designer’s point of view. All design enthusiasts will get a reduction that day (5 euros instead of 7 euros) and can visit the exhibition together with a prominent designer who was chosen by VIZO: Anita Evenepoel, Tim Oeyen and Sanny Winters and Danny Venlet.

- Anita Evenepoel is especially known for her coats and collections of accessories and her Prêt à partir collection (
-Tim Oeyen and Sanny Winters are responsible for the layout of Weekend Knack since a couple of years and some time ago they did also the restyling of Knack Magazine.
- Danny Venlet, winner of the Henry van de Velde Award 2003 for Best Product and of the Award 2003 from the Public, especially known for his Easy Rider, the mobile desk he designed for Bulo (

During a personal guided tour (in Dutch), they will confront you with the work of Jean Arp and the relation with their work from their designer’s point of view. The tours are free of charge and unique. Hurry up, because groups are limited to 25 people per tour. To subscribe, please send an email to mentioning OEYEN & WINTERS (at 11 am), VENLET (at 2 pm) or EVENEPOEL (at 4 pm).

For more information about this special design event, please call 32 (0)2- 507 84 79. For more information about other exhibitions and activities of the Centre for Fine Arts Brussels, visit

‘Jean Arp. The Invention of Form’ is a retrospective on show in the Centre for Fine Arts Brussels and contains over 140 paintings, collages, reliefs and sculptures produced between 1912 and 1965.

Jean Arp is generally considered a sculptor, but he used other forms of artistic expression such as drawing, graphic art, collage, relief and poetry. During the First World War he fled to Zurich, where in 1916, together with Hugo Ball, Tristan Tzara and Richard Huelsenbeck, he founded the Dada movement, whose centre of operations was the Cabaret Voltaire, a literary and artistic circle that organised demonstrations against the established order of the bourgeoisie they considered responsible for the war.
Two of the most interesting aspects of Dada that have received little attention were the investigation of the origins of form and the defence and promotion of abstract art. Arp took part in this exploration of form, which brought him in contact with the geometrical studies by Mondrian and Van Doesburg, from De Stijl, and the organic forms found in Nature.

In ‘Jean Arp. The Invention of Form’ the pieces are arranged chronologically in order to show how the creative mechanisms that Art developed and perfected throughout his life precisely have their origins in the Zurich years, although, following the conception of art expressed in the artist’s own writings, the curator has divided the show into five different approaches to this intense exploration of form. These are 'Geometries', or geometrical structure in space, which includes works with rectangular forms, some of them produced by Arp’s wife, Sophie Taeuber; 'Automatism and Chance', or the role of chance in the work of art; 'Metamorphosis', or the transformation of form based on the changing world of Nature; 'Humorous Forms', or form as an amusing game; and 'Form', or form for form’s sake.


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