Barcelona Cultura

Carles Riart, an avant la lettre postmodern

Carles Riart (Barcelona, 1944) was one of the designers who participated more actively in the organization of Disueño from his position as vice president of the council of ADI-FAD. Together with Beth Galí, Lluís Pau and Carmen Sánchez-Diezma, among others, they voluntarily launched an exhibition that was created with minimal resources which never managed to have a budget.

During the three editions of Disueño, Riart presented a series of works considered by the scholars of Spanish design history as a precursor to what would later be called “postmodern design”. It has been said that he is a creator of new typologies, and his “First collection of special furniture” is an early example of this. 

It is comprised sixteen pieces, of which were presented the Opaco screen, a sculpture which works to capture the gaze more than hiding it; and the Hara table, which aims to break the orthodox vision of design, showing the game of opposites that hide. In 1977, he also presented the pendant lamp Colilla. In Riart’s words, “this artifact is not intended to give light, but to provide a warm signal of presence. It’s a companion light, suitable for listening to music, talking or making love”.

“The functional ambiguity and the playful and even humoristic sense of this furniture are common elements in all the collection,” says Pepa Bueno, author of “Disueño. Cuando el arte y el diseño jugaron a ser lo mismo”, coedited by the Design Museum of Barcelona and Tenov. “They are objects of undefined utility. What makes him an avant la lettre postmodern is the recovery of artisan techniques from the most sophisticated woodwork.” 

From the same willingness to question the use of furniture and the concept of functionality, Arcada was born, one of the most remarkable pieces from the second edition of Disueño in 1978. “It had an undefined utility and, precisely for that, multiple,” says Bueno, who doesn’t find an answer to the question: “Do you welcome and say goodbye to us at the entrance or are you another companion in the gatherings at the lounge?”.  

On the last convocation of the contest, Riart presented the Desnuda chair, one of his most characteristics creations. “Back at that time there was a television commercial which I didn’t like because it didn’t show the shirts, but just the box: they were the ‘golden box shirts’. The product was sold neither for its quality nor its design, but for its packaging,” explains Riart during an interview with Bueno in April of 2002. This was the starting point that ended giving birth to a chair without coatings nor artifices, where everything was brought into view, without leaving space for imagination. 

All of these pieces halfway between design, craft and art belong to the collection of the Design Museum of Barcelona -and in the case of the Arcada, can be visited in the permanent exhibition "From the World to the Museum. Product Design, Cultural Heritage". In the Center of Documentation you can also look up the Carles Riart's archive, which contains the totality of his professional file, constituted by plans, drawings, originals, correspondence, allowing an extensive reading of his work.

Ajuntament de Barcelona