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Bel Air Armchair
Designed in 1982 by Peter Shire, the Bel Air's asymmetrical silhouette and use of contrasting colours have made it one of the most recognisable pieces from the Memphis collection. The chair’s asymmetrical back is based partly on shark fins and partly on the Stevens House by architect John Lautner, located on the beach in Malibu. The title ‘Bel Air’, like other early Memphis furniture-titles, was taken from the name of a luxury hotel, in this case a five-star hotel in Beverly Hills, CA.
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Peter Shire was born in the Echo Park district of Los Angeles, where he lives and works. He studied ceramics at the Chouinard Institute before opening his own studio in 1972. Inspired by Bauhaus, Art Nouveau and Art Deco, Shire’s work aims to bridge the gap between art and industrial design. With his early works he transformed traditional teapot design into a sculptural construction of geometric shapes, edges and pastel enamels. His works attracted the attention of Ettore Sottsass, who invited him to collaborate with the Memphis Group, for which he designed two of the most iconic products: the Brazil table (1981) and the Bel Air armchair (1982). In the 1980s Shire began to produce furniture and objects in glass and metal. During the same years he worked in the design team of the American Institute of Architects for the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles and designed some public sculptures in Los Angeles and other cities in California. His work can be found in several museum collections, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the MAD Museum of Arts and Design in New York and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.
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