A Look At The Lives Of Design Gurus Charles And Ray Eames

The World Of Charles and Ray Eames, Barbican Art Gallery ★★☆☆☆

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 35 months ago
A Look At The Lives Of Design Gurus Charles And Ray Eames The World Of Charles and Ray Eames, Barbican Art Gallery 2
The exhibition contains a living room populated with Eames furniture. © Tristan Fewings/ Getty Images

It's safe to say that design and architecture wouldn't be what it is today without the work of couple Charles and Ray Eames. Their use of functional clean lines has influenced many modern buildings and a huge amount of contemporary furniture, including pretty much everything Ikea makes. But their design skills stretched much further with aeroplane stabilisers, magazine covers and a stretcher all part of their collective portfolio.

This exhibition aims to showcase the breadth of their work and provide an insight into their personal lives using photographs, videos, models, toys and chairs... lots of chairs. Fans of furniture design and the Eames's won't be disappointed by the vast amounts of items on display. But what about the rest of us who may not be familiar with the pair's work and legacy?

This is where the exhibition comes a cropper. While it bombards us with information and products, photos and videos to look at; there doesn't seem to be a narrative that's easy to follow. It's a sprawling show and it's difficult to know what to take away from it — this isn't helped by the fact there isn't a closing room or even a simple video that looks at how modern designers and architects are being influenced by the pioneering work of the duo.

The exhibition would have been better served with fewer items on display and more focal points throughout the show, a greater use of architectural models and finished products would have been much appreciated; alas we were only provided with notes, blueprints and photographs of a lot of their creations. There are a few examples of this including a living room of their furniture and a set of their toys, but these are the exceptions.

It's a heartfelt love letter to Charles and Ray Eames, but without the context and legacy, we often felt like a third wheel wandering this sizeable show looking for a guideline to latch on to. We left the exhibition feeling impressed by the work of the Eames's but unfulfilled. Considering the ticket price and the scale of this exhibition we were expecting a lot more.

The World of Charles and Ray Eames is on at Barbican Art Gallery until 14 February. Tickets are £14.50 for adults, concessions available. Also at Barbican is the rollerskating nudity of Eddie Peake at Curve and the last week of the extremely popular Hamlet starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

For another design related show check out how young designers are addressing the topical subject of migration.

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A toy house filled with Eames furniture designs. © Tristan Fewings/ Getty Images
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A video to accompany the details of the aquarium the Eames' designed. © Tristan Fewings/ Getty Images
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This exhibition contains a lot of chairs, these are only some of them. © Tristan Fewings/ Getty Images
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Charles Eames designed the front cover of many editions of Art and Architecture magazine and they are on display here. © Tristan Fewings/ Getty Images
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They also designed toys and some examples are set out on display. © Tristan Fewings/ Getty Images

Last Updated 26 October 2015