British based, Tel Aviv born, Ron Arad talks to us through his retrospective at New Yorks Museum Of Modern Art.

Israel born architect and artist Ron Arad is no stranger to the world of fashion. In the past he has designed a chair for Issey Mikaye that transforms into a cloak, a contemporary perfume bottle for Kenzo, chandeliers for Swarovski and put his architectural skills to work for retail projects including both the Gaultier store in London and the technology floor at Selfridges. Following these successful partnerships, it is no surprise that Maurice Ohayon sought out Arad to collaborate on a new bag for his label, Notify.

Working with Arad on the unique bag impressed Ohayon so much he invited him to design Notify’s unique and very high-tech store in Milan, and their partnership has led to such a strong friendship that Ohayon has even involved Arad in designing his personal home in Morocco. In return Ohayon has provided sponsorship for Arad’s exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris and now the first U.S. retrospective of his work – which is currently on display in the Museum Of Modern Art in NYC till October 19th.

“When Maurice said he would offer us the sponsorship – we had the best support; not just financial support but also moral support,” says Arad in appreciation of the sponsorship that he seems genuinely honoured in being awarded from his friend.

“These sponsorships were not planned, it was a very spontaneous decision,” Ohayon states. “One time when I came to the studio I saw the most beautiful model of the Pompidou exhibition, I understood the budget issues and I wanted to help.”

The exhibition acts as a comprehensive history of the artist’s work from the last three decades with 140 of his works on display. Having transferred from the Centre Pompidou, Arad found he could redevelop the exhibition into a completely new show.

“The Pompidou was like a field, very open with very specific areas whereas at MOMA it is one huge structure.” The change in venue has given the exhibition a new lease of life as Arad found MOMA represented “a different world…different etiquette, different rules,” leading to a completely different exhibition. Central to his new presentation is a mammoth 126.5 foot long steel structure, Cage sans Frontières (Cage without Borders), which houses the pieces on display. The structure itself is an impressive work; “We did the biggest structure we could for the space, any bigger it’d be out of the roof!”

Amongst the pieces within the structure are original sketches and prototypes for a variety of structures and forms of furniture, the chair/cloak, Ripple Chair Dressed with A-POC (A Piece of Cloth) designed for Issey Miyake, as well as one-off pieces, installations, videos and architectural designs.

A highlight of the exhibition is the intricate Lolita chandelier designed for Swarovski. Made using crystals and white LEDs, the chandelier acts as an impressive example of Arad’s renowned ability to balance design, technology and style as it is capable of receiving and displaying text messages as it hangs proudly in the museum.

“The works make you internally happy – naturally happy, especially seeing 30 years of great work grouped together,” says Ohayon.

These compliments are ones that Arad is quick to embrace as he hopes the exhibition will give visitors a fuller understanding of his work.

“In the past I have been accused of being an elitist. These exhibitions prove the opposite,” he argues. “The Pompidou exhibition showed how populist my work is, and as Maurice said, shows its human capacity to make people happy. This I hope to recreate at MOMA.”

WORDS: Seamus Duff

A full version of this article first appeared in Wonderland #19, Sep/Oct 2009