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 Alexander Girard  (1907 - 1995)

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: fabric design, textile art, architect

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Ad Code: 4
Alexander Girard
from Auction House Records.
custom mural from the Irwin Union Bank & Trust Company, Columbus, IN
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in New York City and raised in Florence, Italy, Girard was educated in Europe as an architect. He began practicing architecture and interior design in the late 1920s. A career breakthrough came in 1949, when he designed the Detroit Institute of Art's "For Modern Living," a significant exhibition promoting postwar modernism.

Alexander Girard became Herman Miller's director of design for its textile division in 1952, a time when fabrics were purely functional and devoid of decoration. Girard felt that color was just what fabrics needed, and Herman Miller gave him the freedom to express himself. With primary colors, concise geometric patterns, and a touch of humor, he injected joy and spontaneity into fabrics, making them a vibrant part of homes and offices. In 1954, he designed the "Good Designs" exhibition for the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Girard's reputation soared in 1959, when his zestful interior design of the La Fonda del Sol restaurant in New York electrified the public.

In 1965 Mary Wells invited Girard to create the color palette for Braniffs fleet of planes heralding the end of the "plain plane". His designs for Braniff also included the creation of special fabrics for all of its aircraft seats as well as the Braniff International logos. Girard also designed the Braniff "Golden Bird", which he originally intended to be used on the tail of each aircraft. The final design chosen was his stylized "BI" instead. Girard's golden bird appeared as a standard image on many corporate and in-flight pieces and as artwork in Braniff gates and lounges. It was also the official flight hostess wings.

Girard's risky, sometimes iconoclastic fabrics were inspired not by a vision of the future but by a love of traditional folk art. Avid collectors, he and his wife, Susan, surrounded themselves with pieces from over 100 countries. These colorful, whimsical objects inspired him and provided a framework for his designs.

In 1962, he and his wife established the Girard Foundation in Santa Fe to manage their art collection that now numbered over 100,000 pieces. In 1978, the Girard Foundation donated the objects to the Santa Fe Museum of International Folk Art, where they remain the core of the world's most important collection of cross-cultural folk art.


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