Ray and Charles Eames

A festival of affinities

Vitra Design Museum is celebrating the 110th anniversary of Charles Eames’ birth with due aplomb: No less than four exhibitions shed light on the different facets to the Eames’ oeuvre.
by Fabian Peters | 7/25/2017

From the European point of view, the furniture makers at Vitra from Weil am Rhein and the oeuvre of Charles & Ray Eames are now so closely interlinked that it is easy to forget that it was the American Herman Miller corporation which first produced the designs created by the Californian couple – and continues to do so for the American market. (In Germany, as late as the 1970s the famed Lounge Chair was still known as the “Miller Chair”). In 1957, Swiss manager Willi Fehlbaum acquired the European license rights for his company Vitra. Thus started the corporation’s gradual emergence as one of the world’s leading producers of high-grade home and office furniture. 

Charles Eames in the Lounge Chair, photograph for an advertisement, 1956

Not least for this reason, people at Vitra still feel a special bond to the Eames. For example, in 1988, after Ray Eames’ death, the company acquired the estate of Charles & Ray Eames. Moreover, Vitra is the main sponsor of the “Eames Foundation”, which, among other things, maintains the “Case Study House” where Charles and Ray lived in Pacific Palisades, California. So it is that the Vitra Design Museum is marking the 110th anniversary of Charles Eames’ birth from September onwards with an “Eames Celebration” consisting of no less than four exhibitions; this seems so logical that one might be forgiven forgetting that the main exhibition “The World of Charles & Ray Eames” is essentially a show brought in from London’s Barbican Centre and curated in collaboration with the Eames Office. The exhibition not only documents the couple’s efforts as furniture designers, but also seeks comprehensively to reflect the oft-neglected diversity of their oeuvre as a whole – their work as architects, as interior designers, as visual artists and their output as media makers, which from the late 1950s onwards become their most important field of activity. To go with this, in the former Vitra Fire Station the focus is on the Eames’ films in a show entitled “Ideas and Information”. By contrast, the Vitra Museum’s Schaudepot presents “Kazam! Charles & Ray Eames’ Furniture Experiments”, highlighting the processes and methods the couple used when developing their designs. And then there’s the “Play Parade” show intended for the young and old, which not only displays Charles & Ray Eames’ toy designs, but allows you to play with them, too.  

Slide show “Think”, IBM Pavilion, New York World’s Fair, 1964

For Eames researchers and enthusiasts, the perhaps most important contribution “Celebration” makes is a book: the “Eames Furniture Sourcebook”, which comprehensively documents the most important Charles & Ray Eames furniture designs on the basis of the estate housed at Vitra Design Museum.


The World of Charles & Ray Eames
Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein
Sept. 30, 2017 thru Feb. 25, 2018

Ideas and Information. The Eames Films
Vitra Fire Station, Weil am Rhein
Sept. 30, 2017 thru Feb. 25, 2018

Kazam! Charles & Ray Eames’ Furniture Experiments
Vitra Schaudepot, Weil am Rhein
Sept. 30, 2017 thru Feb. 25, 2018

Play Parade. An Eames exhibition for children
Vitra Design Museum Gallery, Weil am Rhein
Sept. 9, 2017 thru Feb. 11, 2018

Accompanying publication:

Eames Furniture Sourcebook
Eds. Mateo Kreis & Jolanthe Kugler
352 pages, hardcover, approx. 300 illustrations.
ISBN: 978-3945852200
EUR 49.90 

Eames House, Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles
Set of a photoshoot for the Aluminium Group