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Stefan Bishops Vulcan Mirror #3

 

Stefan Bishop’s Vulcan Mirror #3

This winter, during Design Miami and Art Basel Miami Beach, Ralph Pucci International—a leading luxury furniture, lighting, and former mannequin company—will move to another new gallery in the Wynwood Art District of Miami, where it first opened in 2014. This follows the launch of a space in London’s Mayfair, and will entrench the company’s triangle of US showrooms in Florida, New York, and Los Angeles.

The move marks another step in the remarkable evolution of the company into a major player in the field of contemporary collectible design. The story began in 1954, when Ralph Pucci’s parents established a mannequin repair shop in Manhattan. When Ralph joined the team in 1976, he had the idea of fabricating unique mannequins for fashion designers such as Diane von Furstenberg, Anna Sui, and Pierre Cardin.

designer Ralph Pucci

Designer Ralph Pucci

“Instead of giving mannequins the usual painted faces and wigs, we sprayed them in single colors, so they became sculptural statements. We had found our language,” says Pucci. By the mid-1980s a community of creative people were attending his shows, including the photographers David LaChapelle and Christopher Makos.

His collaboration with designer Andrée Putman changed his course. “The Olympian Goddess,” an imposing, androgynous, metallic-toned mannequin Pucci made in 1986, caused a sensation. Impressed by the attention, Putman suggested Pucci represent her business, Ecart International, in the US. She had recognized the appeal of early-20th-century furniture and objects made by then largely forgotten designers—such as Eileen Gray, Jean-Michel Frank, and Pierre Chareau—and began manufacturing and selling “re-edits” of their designs.

The works flew out of the gallery, but the prices were high, so in the late 1990s, Pucci began to produce his own furniture, working with designers, and using the skills of the craftspeople in his mannequin workshop. Collaborations began with Patrick Naggar, Paul Mathieu, and Hervé van der Straeten, among others.

A fireplace mantel designed by John Koga

 

A fireplace mantel designed by John Koga

In the 2000s the German-American designer Vladimir Kagan began working with Pucci. He started to explore the possibilities of using fiberglass, which the company used to make its mannequins. “Kagan was the first artist to experiment with the material. He was increasingly inspired by sculpture, and he was interested in creating what he described as ‘art furniture’,” says Pucci.

Working with the company’s master sculptor, Kagan was able to “perfect the sinuous silhouette of his Foundry chair, which was launched in 2009.” This, and the work of other Pucci designers and artists eventually led to the formulation of Plasterglass, a proprietary composite mixture of plaster and fiberglass that has the sculptural possibilities of the former combined with the lightness, strength, and durability of the latter. The company now sells Plasterglass tables, chairs, lights, and mirrors alongside a wide range of luxurious furniture made from traditional materials.

Hanabi Large Light Pendant by Alexandre Log

Hanabi Large Light Pendant by Alexandre Logé

The success of Pucci’s furniture gradually eclipsed the mannequin-making side of the business. Despite having been honored in 2015 with an exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, Ralph Pucci: The Art of the Mannequin, he closed it down during the pandemic.

He transformed his New York building, creating a showroom in one half linked to a large workshop and studio. “When people see the work being made by hand they are really impressed,” he says. One of his more recent collaborators is the French designer Elizabeth Garouste. She has added bright colors to the Plasterglass mix and has a show of new pieces opening in London in the fall.

One factor in the appeal of Plasterglass pieces is the price. “It is still high design, but it’s more affordable,” says Pucci. “People may graduate to bronze, but we have created a language in design. Everybody needs one or two pieces of Plasterglass in their collection.” Visit ralphpucci.com

Photos: Courtesy of Ralph Pucci International

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