ARAM at 50: Golden Anniversary for a London Design Icon
Zeev Aram once said that he’d rather sell three good chairs to people that want them than 10,000 chairs that won’t be remembered or noticed. It’s probably a safe bet that his eponymous store and gallery, currently staging an exhibition celebrating a golden anniversary of showcasing exquisite modern furniture, has moved more than 10,000 objects. But it’s because of that devotion to singular objects that move him, and a dedication to promoting designs frowned upon by many when he opened in ‘60s London, that his impact is so widespread.
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s by a student at the end of their second year, or someone with a lot of publicity, it’s that it exhibits good design, that the thinking process can be understood without any words.” That’s been Aram’s mindset since he opened under the name Aram Design Limited Kings Road in 1964, according to Héloïse Parke, curator of Aram Gallery and the 50th Anniversary Exhibition.
While his store’s mere existence, and a contract business that did influential interior designs for places like the Simpsons department store, changed people’s impressions, Aram’s quiet backing of designers has helped shape the furniture and art world. His student-focused graduate shows and gallery, run with a museum’s focus on curation as opposed to the next big trend, have raised the profile of numerous designers, and he even provided a late-career boost to the legendary Eileen Gray, whom he helped promote after seeing her furniture at a 1972 show at the Heinz Gallery. (Aram has a license for Gray’s work and created a comprehensive site about her life and work). Even designers like Jasper Morrison, whom he spied at a Royal College of Art graduation show, are friends; Aram helped develop the Thinkingman’s Chair, originally called the Drinkingman’s chair until Morrison saw the phrase “the thinking man’s smoke” on a pack of cigarettes.
Spread throughout the “new” three-story store and gallery space on 110 Drury Lane, which the business moved into in 2002, the anniversary exhibition will showcase Gray’s tubular steel designs, a selection of work championed by Aram, a library curated by friends and colleagues, and the Cosmagnetic Kinetic Art Multiple, a newly released art piece by the late Taiwanese artist Li Yuan-chia. According to Parke, the comprehensive show even features a telling piece of Aram memorabilia, a beloved old leaflet promoting Marcel Breuer’s furniture, which Aram later introduced to the London market. Parke said he’s held onto it as long as his store’s been open.
Aram at 50 will run through October 29 at 110 Drury Lane in Covent Garden, London.