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Herman Miller to Buy Maharam for $156 Million

(Photo: Maharam)

After four generations of family ownership, Maharam is changing hands. The beloved New York City-based textiles firm, founded in 1902 by Louis Maharam, is being acquired by Herman Miller for $156 million, the company announced this week. “Much as we’ve struggled with this decision, our philosophical kinship with Herman Miller helped make this difficult step a far easier one,” said CEO Michael Maharam, who along with his brother, Stephen (who serves as COO), will remain active in the day-to-day management of the company for the next couple of years. “Herman Miller’s potential to provide the wherewithal to pursue important new initiatives, as well as an established reach into both retail and international markets and the greatest possible strength of association, offers a powerful lever in achieving our design-centered strategic vision.” Maharam is perhaps best known for its re-editions of iconic 20th century designs, including the work of Anni Albers, Charles and Ray Eames, and Alexander Girard. In recent years the company has developed textiles with collaborators such as Hella Jongerius, Paul Smith, Marian Bantjes, and Sarah Morris.

TEFAF, Take Two: Skulls, Artists’ Jewelry, and Great Design

Hurry up, please, it’s time. TEFAF favorite Kunstkammer Georg Laue’s offerings included, at right, a Renaissance vanitas cabinet. Lest would-be buyers tarry, the front door of the cabinet opens to reveal a scene with a naked child leaning on a skull with an hourglass at his feet.

Shoppers ranging from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to Kanye West have popped into the European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF), which runs through Sunday in the Dutch town of Maastricht. No word on Kanye’s haul, but the Met scored “Virgil’s Tomb in Moonlight” (1779) by Joseph Wright of Derby (a poster version is yours for $19.99), Ronald Lauder picked up Picasso‘s “Homme au Chapeau” (1964) for $8 million, and the soon-to-reopen Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has enriched its collection with works including an 1809 Nicolaas Bauer canvas and Antoine Vechte‘s silver “Galathea” vase, created in 1843 for a French nobleman. Meanwhile, 26-year-old TEFAF is looking eastward: the fair’s organizers announced this week that they’re in talks with Sotheby’s to develop an art fair in China, so stay tuned for updates on “TEFAF Beijing 2014.” We’ve still got plenty to show from you from this year’s artstravaganza in Maastricht–check out 25 more must-sees:

Gagosian gallery positioned this 1946 Picasso nearby Rudolf Stingel‘s 2012 photo-realist painting of the artist as young man. At right, L’Arc de Seine’s jaw-dropping stand featured a circa 1930 shagreen-covered desk and chair by Jean-Michel Frank.

The secret to eternal youth? Multiple suitors and frequent ski trips, suggests this first edition from Shapero Rare Books.

Didier Ltd’s assortment of jewelry by artists included this one-of-a-kind silver brooch made by Harry Bertoia during his time at Cranbrook in the ’40s. And what do you get when you combine a fishing float painted black and a gilded beer can? Louise Nevelson‘s 1984 pendant necklace.
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Watch This: Jolan van der Wiel’s ‘Gravity Stool’

Jólan van der Wiel‘s “Gravity” stools, tables, candleholders, and bowls appear ripped from an enchanted sea floor–or are they Magic Rocks run amok? At once otherworldly and organic, these moody forms are in fact the products of the Amsterdam-based designer’s “Gravity Tool,” an innovation that earned him top honors at last year’s DMY International Design Festival Berlin. “I admire objects that show an experimental discovery, translated to a functional design,” explains van der Wiel. “It is my belief that developing new ‘tools’ is an important means of inspiration and allows new forms to take shape.” Now, just two years out of the Gerrit Rietveld Academy designLAB, he has a “Gravity stool” at London’s Design Museum, as part of the “Designs of the Year 2013” show that opens today. This short film by Miranda Stet provides a luscious look at van der Wiel’s unique process, which is something of a team effort among opposing magnetic fields, the forces of gravity, two-component plastics, and good old-fashioned elbow grease.

TEFAF Photo Diary: 25 Things to See at the European Fine Art Fair

At the TEFAF stand of Tornabuoni Arte, Alighero Boetti’s “Mappa del Mundo” (1980), viewed through tulips. (All photos: UnBeige)

Armory Week has come and gone in New Amsterdam, but the European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) is just beginning in the Dutch town of Maastricht. Gluttons for masterpieces, we decided to take a field trip. With some 265 exhibiting art and antiques dealers, the 26th edition of the fair opened to the public today after a vernissage that, in the words of a colleague, “makes Art Basel look like a slum”–all savvy lighting, high ceilings, and spacious aisles bursting with tulips, thanks to fair designer Tom Postma.

TEFAF has long been a must for collectors of Old Masters and antiques, and in recent years has boosted its offerings in modern and contemporary art, design, and photography. Were the fair crass enough to have a slogan, it would be “where the museums shop.” We arrived in Maastricht and, fortfied with stroopwafels, set out to see works spanning 6,000 years of history. Let’s just say it’s a good thing that the fair runs through March 24. Here are 25 of our early favorites.

The multilayered stand of Axel Vervoodt. We couldn’t muster the courage to ask him whether he receives a monthly royalty check from Restoration Hardware.

Wartski of London offers (for six figures) the shot that almost killed Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. Fired–maybe accidentally, maybe as an assassination attempt–in 1906, the lead pellet was mounted in gold by Carl Fabergé and presented to the tsar as a creepy souvenir.

Among the standouts in the design section of the fair: a 1921 Wiener Werkstatte table lamp by Dagobert Peche (at Bel Etage, Wolfgang Bauer, Vienna) and a preppy combination of works by Gerrit Thomas Rietveld (at Galerie Ulrich Fiedler).

Claude Lalanne‘s “Grand Lapin de Victoire” (2001) stands sentry at the Ben Brown Fine Arts stand and keeps an eye on the 1984 Basquiat across the way, at Tornabuoni Arte.

At the stand of Robert Hall, bottles, bottles everywhere, but not a drop to drink.
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Scouring the Globe: A Brillo Box Moment, at the Armory Show and Beyond

It is both surreal and disturbing to watch people–Very Important People, no less–stagger around an art fair carrying unwieldy cardboard boxes, but such was the scene at yesterday’s Armory Show preview, where a rapidly shrinking tower of the colorful crates made famous by Andy Warhol was there for the taking. And take they did. The flurry of grabbing, folding, and foreign accents was apropos, as this was “Babel (Brillo Stockholm Type)” (2013) by Charles Lutz. The work was commissioned for the fair by Eric Shiner, director of the Andy Warhol Museum. He also curated the special “Armory Focus: USA” section of the fair, which includes Gagosian Gallery, making its Armory debut with a booth wallpapered in Warhol–the man, the myth, the camouflage.

This outbreak of Brillo Box fever is not an isolated incident. Belgian furniture brand Quinze & Milan has inked the appropriate licensing paperwork with the Andy Warhol Foundation to produce the Andy Warhol Brillo Box pouf (at left), a cushy foam cube screen-printed with the Brillo logo. The stool-sculptures will be unveiled next month at MOST in Milan, but the online retailer Fab is now taking pre-orders at $425 a pop.

Jurgen Bey Gets Down to Business in ‘Fantasy’ Office

Rotterdam-based Studio Makkink & Bey, led by architect Rianne Makkink and designer Jurgen Bey, has long envisioned a progressive office in which the multitasking extends to the furnishings: a seat that doubles as a self-contained desk and cupboard, a flexible “WorkSofa,” a cozy chair that can be coupled up to create instant meeting space (the “EarChair,” pictured above). The studio is showcasing these designs and more as part of “Fantasy Room for Working,” an exhibition on view through Sunday within the Creative Lounge MOV, a huge shared office space in Tokyo. Earlier this week, among the KadE Chair, Vacuum Cleaner Chair, stools, and aprons, was Bey himself–he put his designs to the test by working from the flexible fantasy office for eight days. Studio Makkink & Bey’s Prooff (Progressive Office) “working and living landscape” interior was also recently acquired by Utrecht’s Centraal Museum, where parts of it are on view through May 25. Take note, Marissa Meyer.

London’s Design Museum Reveals ‘Extraordinary Stories About Ordinary Things’

London’s Design Museum, which opened in 1981 in a former basement boilerroom of the Victoria & Albert Museum, is gearing up to move out of its current home–once a banana warehouse–into a $125 million new building, the former Commonwealth Institute, spruced up by OMA and with interiors by John Pawson. Until the big move, slated for 2015, the museum is pulling out the stops, or at least the stories, for an exhibition of memorable objects from its permanent collection.

“Extraordinary Stories About Ordinary Things,” which opened today, focuses on stories such as national identity (road signage, the Euro), the dominance of plastic in our lives (from 1960s furniture to recent Issey Miyake garments made from upcycled plastic bottles), and Modernism, in which visitors can marvel at the work of designers such as Marcel Breuer and…Erno Goldfinger (Ian Fleming borrowed his name for a Bond villain because of a personal vendetta, according to the museum). Among the objects singled out for special treatment are the Anglepoise lamp and Jasper Morrison‘s Handlebar Table, which is among the latest additions to the museum’s 3,000-object-collection. Another recent acquisition? An AK-47, soon to be followed by a Russian cosmonaut spacesuit. Until you can make it to London (the show will be on view until 2015), visit vicariously via the Design Museum Collection App, free on iTunes.

Naval Battle Ends as Emeco, Restoration Hardware Settle Chair Dispute

From left, Emeco’s famous Navy Chair and a Restoration Hardware “Naval Chair” ripoff.

Restoration Hardware has raised the white–make that Silver Sage!–flag in the dispute concerning its “Naval Chair,” a shameless rip-off of Emeco’s Navy Chair, the aluminum classic designed by the Hanover, Pennsylvania-based company in 1944 for the U.S. Navy and in production ever since. In October 2012, Emeco announced that it was suing Restoration Hardware and its former CEO, Gary Friedman, for infringement of Emeco’s trade dress and trademark rights for its Navy Chair. Now comes word that the Naval/Navy battle has been settled for an undisclosed sum. “As part of that settlement, Restoration Hardware has agreed to permanently cease selling the chairs that Emeco accused of infringement, and its existing inventory of such chairs will be recycled,” noted Emeco in a statement issued yesterday. And if it’s the recycled Real Thing you’re after, look no further than Emeco’s 111 Navy Chair, made with 111 up-cycled Coca-Cola PET bottles.

Previously on UnBeige:
Emeco Sues Restoration Hardware for Copying Its Navy Chair

Animated Furniture Dazzles at Sundance

The Sundance Film Festival wrapped up yesterday in Park City, Utah, and our pick for a breakout is Tony Donoghue‘s Irish Folk Furniture. The charming animated documentary (watch it below) follows the fate of 16 pieces of traditional folk furniture as they are repaired and return home. “In Ireland, old hand-painted furniture is often associated with hard times, with poverty, and with a time many would rather forget,” notes Donoghue, who worked for seven years at the Trust for Urban Ecology and the Natural History Museum in London before turning his full attention to filmmaking. When Irish Folk Furniture won the jury award for animation at the Sundance short film awards ceremony, he arrived at the podium carrying a pint. “The fact that I’m Irish and have this beer is completely coincidental,” Donoghue assured the audience.

Friday Photo: Studio 54 Memories for Sale

In 1977, all of the special people spent Halloween night at Studio 54 to celebrate Liza Minnelli‘s buzzy Broadway turn in The Act. Oscar Abolafia snapped this photo of a group of post-show revelers that included Andy Warhol (clutching a Playbill), Diana Vreeland, and Steve Rubell. The following year, Vreeland, then in the Costume Institute phase of her legendary career, joined Rubell to celebrate his 35th birthday and followed up with a thank you note that rather mysteriously enthused about his “adorable children.” The note and photo are among the Studio 54 memorabilia that will be auctioned tomorrow by Palm Beach Modern Auctions. In addition to photos from Rubell’s personal collection (including some Warhol Polaroids and the artist’s bronze dollar sign sculpture, estimated to fetch $30,000 to $50,000), there are V.I.P. drink tickets, party invitations, and a guestbook from the famed nightclub. The auction house has also studded the sale with some glam design pieces by the likes of Paul Evans, Vladimir Kagan, and Milo Baughman, whose sleek 1970s sectional comes with a revolving cocktail table: drink up and boogie down.