Experience the fusion of architecture and art at the Pierre Bonnard exhibition in Melbourne, masterfully designed by Iranian-French architect India Mahdavi.
In Melbourne, an Iranian-French architect and celebrated colour enthusiast, India Mahdavi, has breathed new life into the works of the celebrated French painter Pierre Bonnard. Nestled in the National Gallery of Victoria, more than a hundred pieces from the 20th-century luminary twirl in a dance of iridescent hues thanks to Mahdavi’s unique touch.
A person observes artwork at a preview of the Pierre Bonnard: Design by India Mahdavi exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, in Melbourne, Australia, 08 June 2023.
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Mahdavi’s brilliant use of colour is well-known in the architectural world. But for this exhibit, her ambition was not just to use her palette, but rather to create an interpretation of Bonnard’s world as seen through her eyes. Breaking the mould of the typical white gallery walls, Mahdavi bathed the spaces in bold hues and patterns that were handpicked to complement Bonnard’s pieces.
Two galleries, one washed in golden yellow and the other wrapped in soft pink, showcase the deft interplay between the art and the space itself. The colours – vibrant yellows, passionate pinks, tantalising oranges, and calming greens – lifted directly from the canvases, imbue the walls and floors. Moreover, repeated floral motifs lend a striking contrast, and large carpets continue these motifs across the gallery floors, weaving a tale of consistency and harmony.
Walking through the exhibition is akin to leafing through the pages of Bonnard’s life. Born in 1867, his artistic journey began in the 1890s in Paris, where he found his muse in the bustling street life. As his focus shifted towards the serenity of domesticity and the serendipity of landscapes, it bore the influence of his friend and neighbour in Normandy, Claude Monet. The exhibition follows this journey, celebrating Bonnard’s unique use of colour, light, and wit to capture intimate domestic interiors, mesmerising landscapes, and vibrant urban scenes.
What also greets the visitors are Mahdavi’s own furniture designs, tastefully placed within the gallery spaces. The incorporation of her designs is another stroke of genius, inviting visitors to pause, immerse themselves in the surroundings, and truly appreciate Bonnard’s artistry.
The exhibition is a global rendezvous of Bonnard’s masterpieces. Pieces loaned from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, which holds the largest collection of Bonnard’s work, join hands with significant loans from other museums and private collections worldwide. Organised around 11 themes, including landscapes, interiors, still life, early nudes, and large decorations, the exhibition presents a comprehensive narrative of Bonnard’s artistic journey.
An equally interesting aspect of the exhibit is the integration of music, theatre, and depictions of the 1920s studio in Le Cannet. There are also sections dedicated to his portrayal of nature and everyday life, highlighting Bonnard’s deft mix of interiors and still lifes within his landscape pieces. The result is a robust exploration of Bonnard’s world and his love for hybrid genre painting.
The exhibition, “Pierre Bonnard: Designed by India Mahdavi,” runs until 8 October 2023, serving as an integral part of NGV’s Melbourne Winter Masterpieces series. So, prepare yourself for an immersive tour through the colourful lens of India Mahdavi, where architecture meets art in a symphony of hues.
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