The false Don Shoemaker biography exposed

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Furthermore to the unfortunate Don S. Shoemaker exhibition of fakes, forgeries and attributions at the Mexico City Museo de Arte Moderno, I will share with you some anecdotal occurrences that I discovered when I went through the reading of the exhibition catalogue:

The Don S. Shoemaker MAM exhibition catalogue exposed

Among many pages of boring, mediocre and irrelevant data combined with an obvious lack of knowledge about the designer´s life and his oeuvre, the curator & writer of the catalogue presents a bizarre fabricated biography, misrepresenting events and misleading the reader completely about our designer´s personality and his spirit. I have picked some extracts from the biography (literally translated into English from the Spanish text), with my comments to each selected paragraph:

“Don Stanley Shoemaker Lohr (Nebraska, U.S.A., 22.01.1919 – Morelia, Michoacan, 20.05.1990) studied Art at the prestigious Art Institute of Chicago, with the help of his uncle Edwin Perkins (creator of the famous flavored beverage KOOL AID, one of the first soluble powders in the commercial food industry ambit). Later he enrolled into the Navy, to the 15th Engineer Combat Battalion; he was part of the historic Battle of Normandy at the Beach of Utah, one of the bloodiest fronts in the war, experience that would leave a lifetime mark on him. He was made prisoner by the Germans and sent to a Concentration Camp in France; by the end of 1945 he was liberated by General´s George Patton 3rd regiment. He was awarded with the Purple Heart and the Victory Cross.”

Historical WW II events:

  • Don was captured by Nazi Germany while serving in France, but the POW camp where he was sent to was not in France, it was located in Germany. George S. Patton on the other hand, set up in March of 1945 a secret and controversial task force called “Task Force Baum”, which was given the task of penetrating 50 miles behind German lines and liberating the POWs in camp OFLAG XIII-B, near Hammelburg (close to the camp where Don was held POW). Controversy surrounds the true reasons behind the mission, which may have been simply to liberate Patton’s son-in-law, John K. Waters, taken captive in Tunisia in 1943. The result of the mission was a complete failure; of the roughly 300 men of the task force, 32 were killed in action during the raid and only 35 made it back to Allied-controlled territory, with the remainder being taken prisoner.

Verified historical data:

  • Don was not liberated by George S. Patton´s 3rd regiment. Don received the Victory Cross, which was granted to all American WW II soldiers, however, he never was awarded with the Purple Heart Medal.

The biographical research work made by the MAM´s curatorial team was less than professional, historical events were deliberately distorted. Was the idea to write an entertaining novel or is it just a literary forgery with a fabricated biography of an artist, presented as a fact?

Text: “An unavoidable first question to make is: ¿How does Don Shoemaker arrive to Mexico and why he settles down in Morelia? By the end of the war Edwin Perkins inherited the stocks of KOOL AID to him, at the time that it was sold to GENERAL FOODS. This would allow him in the future to keep re-investing stocks for the rest of his life in different stock market businesses (from General Motors to Opal Mines in Australia), but above all, at that moment Shoemaker was able at last to dispose of sufficient capital to embark upon his dream of traveling through Latin America. Although he would not get too far, because same as happened to many other travelers in our country, like Edward James or Frank Kyle, he felt in love with Mexico and very soon settles down in Morelia together with his wife Barbara. By 1947 he established a wood button factory.”

The historical evidence:

  • The Perkins Products Company & Packit Envelope and Bag Company were exchanged for nearly 250,000 shares of General Foods stock in 1953. After the General Foods sale, Edwin and Kitty Perkins (Kitty´s maiden name was Shoemaker, she was Don´s aunt) established foundations for philanthropic purposes. After Edwin E. Perkins death in 1961, the family suffered through a challenge to the probate of his estate. However, this unpleasantness was settled out of court by the family, and Mrs. Kitty Perkins took over the reins of the philanthropies.

The coming down to earth reality:

  • Don did not inherit any Kool-Aid stocks, nor did he re-invest stocks for the rest of his life in different stock market businesses. He made the SEÑAL, S.A. company from scratch through hard work and sacrifice. Aunt Kitty however helped Don in the 1960’s with the funding for the purchase of a state-of-the-art factory equipment.
  • Don and Barbara arrived to San Miguel de Allende, Gto. in 1947, not to Morelia.

Note: the writer has very little knowledge on when and where Don and his wife Barbara settled down when they arrived in Mexico. The MAM vehemently claimed that the field investigation performed by their curatorial team was extensive, profound and conclusive, and that it was mainly focused on an IMMENSE photographic archive that the family owns, and also supported by a far bigger archive, which evidently was useless, right? As I have already stated in my previous post on this issue, the immense photographic archive that allegedly the curator´s work and research was supported by, actually was based on a shoe box that contained no more than 60 photographs, a few letters and some catalogue flyers of the SEÑAL, S.A.

Text: “Towards 1950 Shoemaker founded the SEÑAL, S.A. factory and starts to experiment in furniture design and manufacturing, although, due to a workers strike in 1955 he closes the factory and temporarily moves to New York. In 1960 Shoemaker comes back to Michoacan, to settle down for the rest of his life in Santa María de Guido, by that time a far suburb of the City of Morelia. There he re-assumes the furniture production, also he will start the production of complex marquetry wood floors; he began taking control over the early chain of production of the sawmill, and he takes advantage of it to export tropical hardwoods. This is the consolidation point of his most emblematic work: he designs furniture non stop, increasing his sales catalogue at the same time that he improvises the quantity of unique pieces, he creates the Sling Chair, his most iconic piece and starts using the wood remnants to manufacture the gifts line and smaller utility objects (like office articles, kitchen utensils, jewel boxes, ashtrays, buttons, etc.).”

“For several years the sawmill (part of the factory) prepared complete trunks and planks of precious tropical hardwoods for delivery to other parts of the world, like ongoing lots of cocobolo to Japan.”

Not actually the case, quite another story:

  • Don and Barbara arrived in Santa Maria de Guido in 1951, however, the company SEÑAL, S.A. was not established until 1960. Shoemaker never used his sawmill for mass hardwoods export, the sawmill´s purpose was to provide the woods supply used for the SEÑAL, S.A. furniture production only.
  • Don never exported any tropical wood planks and or trunks around the world. In fact, he always had a hard time trying to get the necessary hardwoods (specially cocobolo) for his studio line furniture designs. Sometimes, there was a scarcity of almost a year for the supply of tropical hardwoods, so, why would he sell entire lots of planks and trunks to Japan???

Our lousy biography author did not understand at all the furniture production process at SEÑAL, S.A. and its daily challenges.

Text: “Until the end of the 1970’s he is consumed by his work, while every day at 16:00 hrs. sharp he paints, (his heirs keep about 70 paintings, almost all of them in a medium size), practice that until the late 1980´s he exercised as a dilettante, at the same time as the serigraphy; the copies where on sale also at the SEÑAL, S.A. store (his family keeps at least 18 different proposals or graphics between lithography and serigraphy, besides some drawings). Compared to his furniture designs and his wood sculptures, most of Shoemaker´s paintings do not show any personal style nor do they carry any distinguishable evolution, it seems that his production was more hobby oriented and was inspired from other artists or movements to the point to imitate them openly, although generating an eclectic corps of paintings, they reveal a very cultivated curiosity for the painting history. This is how he made his version of the surrealistic “Vasos Comunicantes” from Diego Rivera or reinterprets the “Three Graces Myth”, being able to transit from a maternity of impressionist execution to a lyric abstraction, going through very naive mystic scenes, abject monstrosities, geometric-sized vegetable patterns, religious scenes of strong expressionism or picturesque landscapes.”

The closer truth:

  • Among many other things, Don had been teaching painting & drawing for years at the “University Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo”, Mexico.

Our false biography writer notes that Don´s painting production was hobby oriented. Mmmmm. We should not forget about the fact that Don studied painting at the Fine Arts Institute in Chicago. However, our writer overslept that part, he only discovered that Don studied “Art”.

Text: “When Don Shoemaker died of an hearth attack in 1990, (even though he suffered from Parkinson for a long time before, which explains why his signature was not always the same), his son George gave continuity to the factory (to whom, together with his grandchildren Stanley and George Jr. he had already donated since 1988 the company´s stocks). George would produce new series (although limited) from old prototypes of his father, he would re-adapt some others in format (for example armchairs that Don had conceived for 1 person, George would develop the 2 and 3-seater versions) and he would design a few new objects himself, many of them marketed under the label “Arrendadora Shoemaker”, which specifies “Produced and/or designed by Shoemaker”, besides the complete address of the factory in Santa Maria de Guido. George died young in the year 2005, and even though the company was dissolved, his two sons Stanley and George Jr. would re-assume their grandfather´s legacy. Although they have designed some new models by themselves, for the time being they have decided that they would re-edit no more any of Don Shoemaker´s models, unless maybe in a future for personal use or maybe for a very special commemorative occasion.”

The absolute truth:

  • Don did not suffer from Parkinson´s disease, nor did he die of an hearth attack. That story was invented by the writer to explain certain signature differences on some of the drawings, after I presented the evidence to the INBA director for all museums, as well as the Secretary of Culture in Mexico, the MAM director and the involved curator, of course.
  • Back in 1988 Don´s two grandchildren both were under-aged. When Don passed away in 1990 the SEÑAL, S.A. company was donated to his children and business partner.
  • George R. Shoemaker, Don´s only son, took over the business after Don passed away. Some time later, the SEÑAL, S.A. company was liquidated and George R. Shoemaker continued producing many of Don S. Shoemaker furniture designs under the ARRENDADORA SHOEMAKER label. George did not re-adapt Don S. Shoemaker furniture designs into 2 and 3-seater versions, he deeply respected his father´s furniture designs.
  • Interesting confession: “even though the company was dissolved, his two sons Stanley and George Jr. would re-assume their grandfather´s legacy. Although they have designed some new models by themselves, for the time being they have decided that they would re-edit no more any of Don Shoemaker´s models, unless maybe in a future for personal use or maybe for a very special commemorative occasion. Isn´t this explanation a clear acceptance to the wrong doing of the “family”, their fakes, attributions and forgeries and lots of furniture pieces of recent manufacture?

Again, here we have some remarkable biographical inconsistencies and misinterpretations of the truth. The “field investigation” or even better, “field day” investigation performed by the MAM curatorial team shown at its best! Besides all the fakes, forgeries, attributions, etc. published in the catalogue, we also have been graced with a false Don S. Shoemaker biography.

Copyright © 2010-2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.

@donshoemaker.com

Don S. Shoemaker at Museo de Arte Moderno 2016 vs. Museo de Arte Moderno 1975

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Cover of the 1975 MAM catalog “Exposición Retrospectiva y Prospectiva de Diseño Mexicano”Beloved Don,

After more than 20 years of hard work, in the year 1975 you finally made it to the Museo de Arte Moderno (MAM) with some furniture pieces in the collective exhibition “Exposición Retrospectiva y Prospectiva de Diseño Mexicano”. 41 years later they have become iconic design works and proof of a beautiful mind; at the time it was already a legacy to the world and to the handcrafted and industrial design. During the next 15 years you kept developing restlessly new designs that nowadays we know as your heritage to humankind. In 1975, the Director of the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico (MAM) was Fernando Gamboa, first historiographer in Mexico and he has also been judged by history for his impeccable work (your lives were almost parallel, you both passed away in 1990 and he was 5 years older than you, furthermore, you two shared a real passion for honest work and perfection and were pioneers in your area of expertise and most relevant, none of you were affected by a pressing need of fame). You as well as other designers were fortunate enough to work with him like your partners in this exhibition: Po Shun Leong, Genaro Alvarez, Pal Kepenyes, Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, Horacio Durán, etc. and many other artists through his life.

View of the exhibition at the Museo de Arte Moderno in 1975

Good old days in which the IMCE (Instituto Mexicano de Comercio Exterior) and other institutions were involved in funding this type of exhibitions and the Secretaria de Educación Pública was interested in promoting the work of the different artists as their final goal, and not making obscure alliances with commercial purposes like the ones we are witnessing in our times.

Unfortunately the news that I bring to you today are bad, but as you can remember since we met for the first time, the deal was to tell you the truth even when I did not like one of your sketches for a piece of furniture, jewelry or any other object.

So here we go:

MUSEO DE ARTE MODERNO 2016 “Don S. Shoemaker Diseño Artesanal e Industrial”

Invitation Museo de Arte Moderno to the Don S.Shoemaker exhibition (2016)

I will try to explain as succinct as possible the development of the wrong doing of the “family”.

In my website (launched in 2010, as you know) I started to denounce forgeries, attributions and copies like the “X-Chair”, some “Diamond” desks, two “Day Bed” models, and several tables of the “Parsons Line” (the “family” and the curator do not even know that this particular design, the original one, is a table, not a desk, and that it belongs to the Parsons Line) which by the way, one of them, a relative uses as her desk and commercialized it under that category.

During the last 7 years they have been trying to remain in a comfort zone in which a lot of people know who is producing all these abject monstrosities so I had been busy consulting different auction houses, 1stdibs.com, etc. and I have tried to maintain the Don S. Shoemaker furniture market controlled and away from many other things that the “family” have been producing lately, that, of course, these pieces do not belong to the SEÑAL, S.A. catalog.

In 2014, Iñaki, curator for the Modern Art Museum (MAM) in Mexico City contacted me to ask if a small piece of wood that he called an “abstract sculpture” that carried a fake “Don S. Shoemaker” label was original. I explained to him the motifs and reasons why it was a fake and in return, he decided to contact the “family”. Of course, they authorized the piece as “an original” and there began the great expectations of both parties. The same offer that Iñaki made to me of an exhibition at the MAM, that I refused, was made now to them. Iñaki with the purpose of self-glorification becoming THE DILETTANTE curator of Don S. Shoemaker and the “family” finding a way to authenticate the trash they have been selling.

In 2015 during the month of June, the DS exhibition was announced to take place concomitant to the DESIGN WEEK MEXICO event in October 2015. I had a brief conversation with the MAM´s director and she decided to postpone the exhibition to a future date. I guess at this moment they did not have the back-up of the patrons of DESIGN WEEK, whom by the way own a furniture and interior design showroom named BLEND.

In 2016, a leak of information about the programming of a DS exhibition at the MAM concurrent with DESIGN WEEK MEXICO 2016, enlightened me of the pieces that they were already preparing to show as “DS original production”. At that very moment I decided to contact the Secretary of Culture of Mexico. I prepared more than enough evidence to proof the wrong doing of the “family”, their fakes, attributions and forgeries and unfortunately lots of furniture pieces of recent manufacture that they claimed were originals, prototypes, unique pieces, numbered pieces, signed and limited editions, and many other appellatives that in conjunction with Iñaki and his curatorial team were ready to authenticate and present at this exhibition.

So my pilgrimage started with the Director of International Affairs at the Secretaria de Cultura de Mexico. Then the INBA Director; she set up a meeting with the Director of all Museums in Mexico, including the MAM´s director and Iñaki. By the way, I have the recordings of all the meetings in which they claimed that the field investigation performed by Iñaki was extensive, profound and conclusive, and that it was mainly focused on the immense photographic archive that the family owns and preserved in perfect condition and supported by a far bigger archive of I do not know what, because evidently it was of no use. I told to all these people that the immense photographic archive that allegedly Iñaki´s work and research was supported by, actually was based on a shoe box that contained no more than 60 photographs, a few letters and some catalog flyers of the SEÑAL, S.A., now on display at the Don S. Shoemaker exhibition at the museum. I coined the term “field trip investigation” to refer to the work of Iñaki. I was right!

At that moment I thought that with all the evidence that I presented, among others: letters of collectors outraged by the flood of forgeries, fakes and attributions, treasure hunters who instead of finding treasures witnessed the production in 2010 and 2012 of different furniture pieces (now on display at the MAM), letters from people who bought for example the so called “X-Chairs”, claiming that they were deceived, some others from galleries that had to return the money to their clients, etc. and sustained by all the respect that I had for the Secretaria de Cultura, in my candidness, I thought that they were going to evaluate the situation and realize that after being exposed Mr. Iñaki the way I did, and after having exposed the dates, models and recent production of the “family” I was going to get a favorable verdict and that the name of Don S. Shoemaker and his legacy would have remained unspotted, far from the mud and more important, unrelated to all the felonies, lies and stupidity of Iñaki and company. Of course, the issue of the MAM´s involvement as a main player in the launching and marketing of the heir´s plagiarism designs was a main discussion theme with all the Secretaria de Cultura people and time gave me the reason. SO SAD…

So sad, because the exhibition of what was supposed to be your work opened last Wednesday October 5th with full endorsement from all the people of the Secretaria de Cultura, and to my deepest and sincere discomfort I was right, from all the furniture pieces shown at the MAM maybe there are 4 or 5 that were produced by SEÑAL, S.A. And the worst part is that with no credentials at all, the grandchildren (I do not know if you remember them, but they are the little kids that you saw time after time), using the line “my grandfather was Don S. Shoemaker”, now they made it to show some pieces with the help of Mr. Iñaki, who is far from being a reliable curator to the point in which, I will quote his words:“se habló con ex trabajadores que aún viven, que trabajaron con Don que ayudaron a fechar y a deducir los tipos de madera exacta de los muebles en las fotografías”. That´s what the Secretaria de Cultura called an academic investigation!???? At least, Iñaki mentioned on the Exhibition´s Acknowledgement List the name of the only ex-worker who helped him to date and deduce from a photography the exact wood species used in the depicted piece of furniture, and by extension, of course, the newly made ones.

New desk showed at the Don S. Shoemaker exhibition at the MAM (2016)

The new X-Chair presented at the Don S. Shoemaker exhibition at the Modern Art Museum, Mexico City (2016)

But guess what, today you can see an “interpretation” of Don S. Shoemaker´s Sling Chair on sale at BLEND´s store made by Stanley, that’s what I call appropriation! You will also find at the MAM´s DS exhibition a “desk”, the new “Sling Chair” and the “X-Chair”, as well as the “Diamond Desk” that I denounced and many pieces produced in the last 5 years that carry a description card like the one that describes the chair used for the wallpaper and the invitation to the exhibition in which you can read: “Don S. Shoemaker, Silla Años 1960, (ensamblada en 2016 con partes originales, tapizada en 2016) Granadillo. Colección Familia Shoemaker. Esta pieza fue revisada por técnicos especialistas del CENCROPAM y de la Escuela de Artesanías del INBA en Septiembre, 2016”

Depicted chair on the invitation - shown at the exhibition (2016)

I have a question for you, Mr. Iñaki: if the grandson of a novelist publishes under his name exactly the same text of one of his grandfather´s novels but written only in capitals, how would you call it, a reinterpretation or a simple and clear appropriation? Or is this one of the liberties that you can indulge yourself, that of course Mr. Fernando Gamboa would never have approved. But I have a confession to make to Mr. Iñaki: I am a little bit jealous of his exhibition because during the last 7 years as I said, I have been unsuccessful to make this overwhelming exposé of the fakes, forgeries, attributions, etc. that you have been able to put together under the roof of the MAM. CONGRATULATIONS!!! You managed to orchestrate the perfect exposé and I give you all the credits.

P.S.: Please tell George Richard that due to his absence (how convenient), now he is being blamed for all the recent production, for example the “Salas Elefante”, sold in auction in 2010 and most of the reproductions on display at the MAM´s exhibition. Hugs and kisses for you two guys as always!

Warm Regards,

Karin

Copyright © 2010-2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.

@donshoemaker.com

 

ZONA MACO visitors captivated by Don S. Shoemaker designs

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Don Shoemaker´s overwhelming presence at Zona MACO

ZONA MACO Salón del Anticuario 2014 first edition was presented in Mexico City last month. I happened to be visiting the city during those days and I decided to check on this new Antiques Show. My adventure definitively paid off! Even tough the exhibition area was rather small, my attention was immediately captured by one of the participating galleries who had an amazing collection of Don S. Shoemaker´s furniture pieces and accessories on display.

Don Shoemaker´s iconic furniture as seen at Zona MACO-Salón del Anticuario 2014

Modernist Don Shoemaker’s stole the show in Zona MACO with this Bar Set

I also found this sample of William Spratling’s superb work in silver from the 1940’s, a wooden box containing these 12 silver goblets, intact, never used, with its original wrapping paper…

An amazing set of 12 William Spratling Silver Goblets (1940’s)

Copyright © 2010-2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.
@donshoemaker.com

Don’s Modernist Mexican Butaque Chair

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continued from part # 5

As described in my previous post series about the Mexican Butaque, we have seen several samples and interpretations of these emblematic chairs coming from different regions and designers in Mexico. Considering all the information and research data that I have gathered in the past years, it is without a doubt that William Spratling is the true Father of the Mexican 20th Century Butaque chair rebirth, not Clara Porset, as many have tried to argue. Clara Porset as well as many other designers from that same period of time basically followed Spratling. Using his designs as an “inspiration” or just plagiarized and mass-reproduced the chair in cheaper woods with minimal changes.

When Don S. Shoemaker arrived to Mexico this small charming chair also called his attention, but our master had his own ideas… He envisioned the Butaque chair from a modernist point of view: the design had to be organic and it had to be made with dark and heavy tropical woods. On this basis, instead of using the typical arch that conform the legs of a butaque chair, he presented us with a beautiful organic composition of his chair legs. Moreover, he gave the flair of a sling chair using softer black leather instead of the traditional “vaqueta” leather that his predecessors had been employing. And of course, he did not attach it to the lateral body of the chair, and instead of using the round head rivets for this purpose on the top and low rail he developed a system that today is his trademark of fixing the leather to the hardwood: his iconic leather “sunflowers”.

Bronze rivet (19th Century) and Don’s leather rivet (1960’s)

The Sling “Sloucher” Chair was one of Don’s very first chair projects. The result: a very unique interpretation of a modernist Mexican Butaque! By 1960 he introduced the chair as we know it today:

Sling "Sloucher" Chair by Don S. Shoemakeral

The Sling “Sloucher” Chair is Don’s flagship, these chairs were an essential part of his SEÑAL, S.A. furniture catalog together with the Sling “Swinger” Chair and the Sling “Suspension” Stool.

Sling Casuals Catalogue page

As we have seen, the exotic Mexican Butaque Chair has a long history in furniture design; Don’s modernist Butaque was the last evolution of this graceful chair, no other designer in Mexico has succeeded in the attempt to create a new form for the last 50 years.

 

Copyright © 2010 – 2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.

@donshoemaker.com

The revival of the Butaque Chair in Mexican 20th Century Furniture Design – Part 5

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continued from part #4

The perfect finale for the Porset-Barragán-Sordo Madaleno butaque chair designs chapter is Mexican muralist, painter and designer Xavier Guerrero. Guerrero was Clara Porset’s silent partner, the quiet husband who was behind many of Clara Porset’s iconic furniture designs, including some of her best known butaca chair designs, as presented at the recent Xavier Guerrero Exhibit – Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo in Mexico City:

Butaca Chairs designed by Xavier Guerrero for Clara Porset

Prominent Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta started his career in the shadow of Mexican modernist José Villagrán; however, by his mid-career he had become far more prolific than any other Mexican architect, landing work as far afield as London, Australia, Japan and Qatar. Legorreta’s architecture has been described as Mexican minimalism and Mexican modernism; his mature style combined many of the aspects of the International Style with elements derived from the climate, colors, and architectural history of Mexico.

Whereas Barragán will be remembered as a designer of domestic spaces and housing developments, like El Pedregal de San Angel in Mexico City, Legorreta will be remembered as a master of large public spaces, from Pershing Square in Los Angeles (1993) to the Managua Cathedral (1994) in Nicaragua, and a long list of many other well-known international projects, placing Mexican architecture on the world map.

Among his best-known works in Mexico is the deep pink and yellow-fronted Camino Real hotel in Mexico City, which was designed to attract visitors to the 1968 Summer Olympic Games. Among the most famous private homes he designed were one for his friend and fellow Mexican, Hollywood actor Ricardo Montalbán, in the Hollywood Hills, and another for Chicago philanthropist Cindy Pritzker, a renowned supporter of architects. Legorreta’s interior designs frequently included Butaca Chairs and Benches, here we have some of them furnishing the entrance and lobby of the Camino Real hotel in Mexico City:

Butaca Chair designed by Ricardo Legorreta (1968)

Butaca Bench designed by Ricardo Legorreta (1968)

Large Butaca Bench designed by Ricardo Legorreta (1968)

Another noteworthy Mexican architect is Manuel Parra. Parra´s work is completely atypical compared to that of the other Mexican architects from his generation. Parra’s work spans from the 1930’s through the 1990’s and consists of many “casas” he built in Mexico City, primarily in Coyoacán and San Angel. His creations display a collection of fragments from a multitude of origins. He was a pioneer in the recycling of construction and demolition debris, he employed materials such as brick, tiles, wood, local volcanic rock, iron and, preferably, the remains of demolished Colonial buildings. These eclectic combinations became the fingerprints of his designs.

Parra was also a movie set designer, painter, sculptor, potter, and he designed furniture. Parra´s architectural work represents the Mexicanismo movement at its best, and his furniture designs would always include butaque chairs; essential pieces of furniture in his interior designs for the houses he built or refurbished.

Manuel Parra would only commit to build a house for somebody he liked. The legend says, that he built over 800 residences during his career, including Haciendas in the State of Morelos, gorgeous private homes in San Angel, Coyoacán, San Jerónimo, Chimalistac, Las Lomas and El Pedregal in Mexico City; in resorts like Acapulco, Colonial cities like León and San Miguel de Allende in Central Mexico, and in many other parts of Mexico, as well as in southern U.S.A.

Butaque Chair designed by Manuel Parra

Butaque with armrests by Manuel Parra (1960’s)

Then, the last push of the Mexican Butaque Chair fever came with Mexican painter, graphic designer and artisan Alejandro Rangel Hidalgo, who deserves to be mentioned for his iconic “Rangelino” Butaca designs: Rangel Hidalgo lived and worked most of his life at his family’s property called the Nogueras Hacienda in Comala, Colima. His best known work involved the designing of Christmas cards for UNICEF and the New York Graphic Society in the 1960’s, but he is also well-known for his furniture designs and promotion of traditional handcrafts.

In 1970, Rangel and one of his brothers obtained federal funding and founded the School of Artisans in Comala, where he taught design, painting and furniture making. Over 7 years, the school taught about 300 local artisans adding classes such as wood working, iron working, leather working, gold leaf application and furniture finishing. When he died, he bequeathed the Hacienda to the University of Colima, which converted it into the Centro Universitario de Estudios e Investigación, an Ecological Park and the Alejandro Rangel Hidalgo Museum. The name Alejandro Rangel Hidalgo is clearly identified with his style, now called ‘Rangelino’.

Many Mexican embassies and presidential homes are proud to showcase Rangel Hidalgo´s furniture and artwork. Here some perfect samples of his “butacas” with the typical “Rangelino” hand painted head supports:

Butaca Rocking Chair by Alejandro Rangel Hidalgo (1960’s)

Pair of Butaca Chairs by Alejandro Rangel Hidalgo (1970’s)

Butaca Chair with armrests by Alejandro Rangel Hidalgo

to be continued in part # 6

Copyright © 2010 – 2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.

@donshoemaker.com

The revival of the Butaque Chair in Mexican 20th Century Furniture Design – Part 4

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continued from part # 3

American designer William Spratling frequented prominent artists and personalities that were active within the Mexicanismo movement during that time, and many of them decorated their homes with his furniture. As a result of William Spratling’s furniture designs success, the Butaque fever started in Mexico, and following the saying of silversmiths “the tin is the poor man´s silver”, in the 1940’s Clara Porset decided to introduce industrial low-cost series of butaques with only minimal changes to Spratling’s designs produced since the early 1930’s at his Taller de las Delicias. The conflict between Spratling and Porset became well known, and as a consequence, they never talked to each other again. Porset also approppriated an old art-crafted typical caned butaque of Veracruz and the famous Miguelito armchair from Jalisco, of course in cheap woods like pine, etc. Someone coined the saying: “A Porset is the poor man’s Spratling butaque”.

Low cost Butaque Chair designed by Clara Porset (1949)

Armless Butaque version designed by Clara Porset (1956)

Armless Butaque Chair by Clara Porset (1960´s)

Clara Porset´s Living room with a variety of Butacas

Pair of Miguelito Armchairs designed by Clara Porset (ca. 1947 + 1950’s)

Now we will witness how the fever of the butaque chair was propagated:

Everybody knew each other in the Mexican architectural and design world and one thing lead to another: Clara Porset collaborated on many projects with prominent Mexican architect Luis Barragán and by the mid 1940’s Barragán presented “La Butaca” designs in his furnishing proposals. At this moment the butaque fever reached its peak and the cloning virus was more vicious than ever; please check on the pictures of the typical Jalisco Miguelito chairs and the identical butaques produced by Barragán and Clara Porset; miraculously, one particular chair created by Clara Porset for Barragán looks identical to the caned Butaque chairs from Veracruz from the early 20th Century. (See my posts: Mexican Modernism – Furniture Design in Mexico – Part #1 & Part #5 + ¿What is the difference between a Mexican Campeche Chair and a Butaque? – Part #2)

I would like to remark however, that some of Luis Barragan’s and Clara Porset’s dining room chairs remind me of William Spratling’s designs as well, but we will talk about those appropriations in future posts.

Butaca Chair designed by Luis Barragán (1945)

Caned Butaque Chair from Veracruz (early 20th Century)

A Luis Barragán Miguelito Armchair

A typical Butaca from Jalisco (Miguelito Chair)

Pair of Miguelito Armchairs by Luis Barragán

I also have to mention Mexican architect and urban planner Juan Sordo Madaleno, active during that same period of time. Architecturally, he settled initially by the Bauhaus style and influence of Le Corbusier. Notable examples of Sordo Madaleno’s work are his own house (1952), the Cinema Paris (1954), with its surprising structure and composition, and the Seguros Anáhuac Building (1958). He significantly influenced the design of hotels in Mexico and he was among the pioneers to introduce a new type of large-scale commercial center, such as the Plaza Satélite (1971) in Mexico City. Juan Sordo Madaleno collaborated with Luis Barragán, Serrano and Ricardo Legorreta, among others, and he worked with Clara Porset on several projects like the Club Campestre Churubusco in Mexico City.

Here are some interior views of Sordo Madaleno’s house in Mexico City, including Butaca chair models designed by him – very similar to those presented by Luis Barragán and Clara Porset:

Butaca Bench by Juan Sordo Madaleno (1950’s)

Miguelito Chair by Juan Sordo Madaleno (1950’s)

A Luis Barragán Miguelito Armchair

to be continued in part # 5

Copyright © 2010 – 2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.

@donshoemaker.com

The revival of the Butaque Chair in Mexican 20th Century Furniture Design – Part 3

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The comeback of “El Butaque” in Mexican 20th century furniture design came with American designer William Spratling, “Father of Mexican Contemporary Silver”. Spratling was not only well known for his creations in silver, but also for his emblematic furniture designs… All of Spratling’s furniture pieces were handmade by local carpenters under his direction, and they represent the essence of pure Mexican craftsmanship. Bill redesigned the butaque chair in a unique “ranchero style” and started to produce his iconic “butaquitos” at his firm Spratling y Artesanos in Taxco in the 1930’s. (See my post: Mexican Modernism – Furniture Design in Mexico – Part # 4). Both, larger and smaller butaque chairs were produced, with and without armrests:

A William Spratling Butaque (ca. 1940´s)

Butaque Chair designed by William Spratling (ca. 1940’s)

Butaquito designed by William Spratling

Pair of William Spratling Butaques

Hectór Aguilar began his career as the shop manager for William Spratling’s Taller de las Delicias in 1936. Aguilar then left Las Delicias in 1939 taking a number of silversmiths with him to found the Taller Borda, with the financial support from his wife and several friends. By 1948 he formed a new company, Talleres Borda, S.A. de C.V. which quickly became one of the premier retailer silver outlets in Taxco. Taller Borda sold a full line of sterling jewelry, hollowware, flatware and furniture pieces, all produced at the Aguilar workshops. The firm prospered for many years until its closure in 1962. Below I have included a butaca armchair produced by the Héctor Aguilar workshops:

Butaca Chair designed by Héctor Aguilar

Another outstanding Mexican artisan and designer who started his career in Taxco, at Casa Grande, is Antonio Frausto. He became famous for his highly successful Mexican Colonial designs made in juniper, pine and exotic wood species from the state of Guerrero. Frausto designed complete furniture sets for the interiors of Mexican Modernism architects Francisco Artigas, Manuel Parra and Max Cetto, just to name a few. His emblematic Mexican Colonial furniture pieces can be found at Haciendas and Ranches of Mexican Presidents, politicians, celebrities and wealthy businessmen; even today, you may recognize Don Antonio’s furniture designs at prestigious Mexican Colonial hotels and restaurants. His workshop, Artesanos de México, S.A. produced furniture lines including all sorts of cabinets with attractive ironworks, office furniture, dining and living room sets, bedrooms, chairs, tables and benches. My favorites, Don Antonio´s “bargueños” are without a doubt his personal trademark, but these will be described in another post dedicated to furniture from the “Mexicanismo” movement.
Since the 1950’s Don Antonio’s workshop produced a complete variety of “butacas” in juniper wood and “vaqueta” leather. Regrettably, most of his furniture production does not carry any label or signature; his creations are very often mistaken for designs attributed to William Spratling, Francisco Artigas, Luis Barragán or even Clara Porset.

A Butaca Armchair from the Artesanos de México catalog (1967)

Butaca Armchair designed by Antonio Frausto (1960’s)

Butaca Armchair designed by Antonio Frausto (1960’s)

Small Butaca Chair by Antonio Frausto (1960’s)

to be continued in part # 4
Copyright © 2010 – 2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.
@donshoemaker.com

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