Frank Gehry. The name itself carries weight throughout the design world. Known as “the greatest living architect," his work defies categorization and has revolutionized architecture’s aesthetics, social and cultural role, with such projects as the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Yet, in spite of all his recognition for the innovative forms and unexpected materials he has brought to his architecture, Gehry has received little attention for the same daring imagination that informs his product designs, from his corrugated paper Easy Edges furniture of 1972, to a transgressive sterling silver and cement Tiffany & Co. ring.
On Oct. 25, I had the opportunity to witness Gehry receive the Museum of California Design’s prestigious Henry Award for his extraordinary achievements in product design, specifically in the smaller-scale design arenas of furniture, jewelry and lighting. The award ceremony was part of the museum’s annual gala benefit, which was held at JF Chen at 1135 and attracted collectors and design enthusiasts, alike, as well as Gehry’s colleagues, collaborators and lifelong friends.
Silent Auction Items
With KCRW DJs providing a music background, drinks and appetizers were served to arriving guests as they perused the gallery’s displays and silent auction items. The auction featured works by notable California designers, including product designs and sketches from Frank Gehry, himself. VIP tables were scattered throughout the large gallery space, and guests received gift bags filled with products by such brands as Apolis Global, Arts District Printing at Hammer & Spear, BCBG, Dean Leather, James Kendall, John Kelly Chocolates, Matteo Home, Phillip Lim and Studio Cue.
Tables available to VIP guests
Frank Gehry exhibition space
Corrugated side chair and stool. "Beaver Chair" (designed by Frank Gehry 1969-72)
A special installation, “Frank Gehry: Forty Years of Product Design 1972–2012,” accompanied the event. It is the first-ever survey exhibition of Gehry-designed furniture, lighting and jewelry. The installation spent one week at the gallery and is scheduled to travel to other venues. Highlights include a cardboard version of Gehry’s famous Wiggle Chair, as well as the concrete and silver ring produced as part of an exclusive jewelry line for Tiffany and Co.
Ottoman and Sofa Heller - Frank Gehry furniture collection
Gehry Accepting Award from Bill Stern, Executive Director of Museum of California Design
The award itself was presented by MOCAD Executive Director Bill Stern, with an introduction by Frances Anderton, host of KCRW’s “Design and Architecture.” Although Gehry has received numerous prestigious prizes and awards, including the Pritzker Prize in 1989, he seemed especially touched by the Henry Award. During his acceptance speech, Gehry referred to his earlier days living in Los Angeles, working alongside other designers in a studio space on San Vincente, a time before he was a famous architect and could “barely afford toilet paper." He even teared up while speaking of his old friend and former studio mate Gere Kavanaugh, who was in the audience to support the designer.
The award benefit concluded with a live auction of a variety of works by notable California designers,such as signed textiles by Gere Kavanaugh; a signed lithograph by Ed Ruscha; a set of signed posters designed by John Van Hamersveld; and a signed Gehry lithograph that fetched $1,400, with all proceeds benefiting MOCAD.
Guests interact with exhibit
I had the opportunity to meet Frank Gehry before he accepted his award; as an architectural designer and Gehry fan, this was a huge honor.
All photos by Grace Lennon