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09 December 2009

You've got to be kidding.

The Princess Firyal of Jordan's salon by Mongiardino, courtesy of Architectural Digest

Am I the only who is flabbergasted by Architectural Digest's latest list, "The World's 20 Greatest Designers of All Time"? If not, the only reason can be that you haven't seen it yet.

I won't ruin the shock for you, but let me give you a taste of where it went wrong....

Ted Graber? Naomi Leff? John Dickinson? (Amusingly, Valerian Rybar also makes an appearance.) There's no denying the real talent of the aforementioned - but when the pool is supposed to encompass any designer who ever lived anywhere, the selection seems so ridiculous as to be tongue-in-cheek.

Ted Graber's bedroom for the Reagans at the White House

So who would be on my list?

Well, I would probably keep Renzo Mongiardino, Jean-Michel Frank and perhaps Henri Samuel who were the highlights of the AD list. But lets not limit ourselves to Americans with an occasional Euro (or Yugoslavian with a suspicious accent) thrown in...

Jacques Grange, John Fowler, Eero Saarinen,

Josef Hoffman,

Mies van der Rohe, Paul Poiret - who did interiors as well as harem pants...


And surely Eileen Gray was more important than T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings who "borrowed" heavily from the ancients...

But lets go even further back in time than the 1930s....

William Morris,


Robert Adam,

Jean le Pautre,

and how about the sculptor Phidias who was entrusted by Pericles to supervise the building of the Parthenon, which many believe to be the most perfect building in the world, and after whom phi, the symbol for the golden mean, is named....

And who are your nominees?

27 comments:

Jane said...

Hi there. There is nothing better than a little bit of List Anger! I am pretty happy with your selection although I think the last one was technically not a designer. I think the truth is that AD has little credibility these days particularly outside a certain section of the US. I quite like their before and afters but apart from that it is all too overblown, self referential and over furnished. Its a shame given the demise of so many interior magazines recently.

little augury said...

It is really impossible to make such a list of 20 Of all Time? I am happy to say I never heard of Ted Graber. Certainly of all time- though Palladio was architect-where would any respectable Interior be without his influence? It is like any list-as witnessed with my own attempt recently a consensus can not be reached. To much of that beauty is in the eye of... regardless of the expertise. Who could make such a list? Maybe this is AD's last stand as arbiter of design (RIP) G

Judy said...

No Billy Baldwin or John Saladino? AD has ADD! I could not believe the lists. Like you say, they are all good decorators, but really, the 20 best EVER?

Thanks...Judy

An Aesthete's Lament said...

Ruby Ross Wood; Elsie de Wolfe; George Stacey; Mark Hampton; Henri Samuel; Stephane Boudin; Billy Baldwin; Herter Brothers; Rose Cumming; Jay Spectre (I didn't like his rooms but can one honestly ignore him?); Angelo Donghia; John Fowler; Zajac and Callahan ... God, the list goes on and on and on. AD's list was a grave disappointment.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Yes, I was a bit perplexed as well -although the past few issues have had very grand 'titles' (a marketing ploy? does it work?) that left me a little perturbed as well. The magazine is not living up to the title pages and should not give rise to false expectations! Not to jump on the I hate AD bus, I'm not there yet, but these titles are ridiculous.

Mrs. Blandings said...

I defer to you on this. This is why I gave up AD a long time ago. What the heck is going on over there?

Toby Worthington said...

Rather reminds me of the New York Times list at the turn of the last century, when lists were made about the greatest contributions of the past two thousand
years and in the realm of architecture, critic Herbert Muschamp named The Seagram Building. Ludicrous, short sighted, almost laughably provincial a selection,
but there you have it. If what AD has done is merely list the personal favorites of Paige Rense, why not
present it as such?

Emily Evans Eerdmans said...

Rock on, Mr. Worthington.

I didn't even mention AD's new top 100 current designers which is in the same issue - there are some pretty major omissions there as well, like Albert Hadley for starters....

Emily Evans Eerdmans said...

Stefan, I think you've nailed it - and the big sweeping title worked as it got me to open the magazine. In AD's defense, they are one of the only shelter books that give space to historical design for which they should be commended. But, if the quality of such coverage continues to deteriorate, then there won't be any reason (for me) to look at the magazine as their contemporary spreads (for the most part) aren't so compelling.

Jennie McCahey said...

I can't believe their list! Even if they didn't look at historical greats like Hadley, Fowler, Sister Parish, Nancy Lancaster, they have ignored some of the major designers that they themselves have featured in their top 100 over the past years. Sometimes I wonder if they only want to show famous stars' homes.....

Emily Evans Eerdmans said...

Jennie, seriously - do we really care about Martin Sheen's log cabin?

home before dark said...

You've got another barnburner going on here. As I have written before I think AD is a corpse on life supports. I stop reading it a long time ago. Except when I'm at my dentist's office. Sometimes, however I prefer my other option which is Sports Illustrated. As least SI writes with passion. A tip of the hat to AAL about the Jay Spectre (perfect name, by the way) listing. That we can see genius is a place that we wouldn't want to hang our hat in: that to me is genius. And he said it without the cloak of darkness of an ANON comment!

The Peak of Chic said...

I knew all was lost when MacGyver made the cover of AD a year or so ago! This issue's title enticed me to pick it up and immediately flip to that article; once I read it though, I found it so baffling that I put the copy back up on the newsstand shelf. How can an American magazine not include Billy Baldwin in a list like that? At least they mentioned Donald Deskey, if I remember correctly.

Emily Evans Eerdmans said...

Jennifer, MacGyver on the cover? Oh lord....was happily surprised to see Deskey on the list as well. and as you say, Ted Graber but not Billy Baldwin?

(IN)DECOROUS TASTE said...

Robert Adam's Etruscan room has always been one of my favorites!! And yes, I absolutely agree with you. This further supports my suspicions that AD has officially gone down the crapper. Whoever said that they're only interested in publishing celebrity lifestyles is absolutely on target- and they're unfortunately extremely disappointing. Not much inspiration to be had in Martin Sheen's log cabin, or Donna Karan's tropical complex, for sure.

How did Conde Nast drop House & Garden and not AD??!

Lauren

balsamfir said...

Wouldn't this be about who buys advertising? Refuse to look at AD,a and am weekly praying that WOI survives. Unfortunately Robert Adams cannot. I might add the designer of the Petit Trianon, Ange Jacque Gabriel, since it has been so influential.

carla fox said...

Is that rag still on the stands? Maybe it was a force to be reckoned with 30 years ago, but it's just sad now...kind of like too much plastic surgery on an aging socialite. Look away, people! This is not design in the 21st century!

Sydney said...

You are a scholar and they are twinkies.

Anonymous said...

But isn't the most baffling question of all HOW CAN IT STAY IN BUSINESS?? And is it doing well, or well enough considering the times? Do the subscribers keep subscribing, are the add numbers good, are the advertisers happy? Could all of these things be in check and yet we all think its a major looser and a total dud?? It certainly would be the first magazine Ive ever known that was a success in-spite of a utterly negative industry opinion.
So the writing is on the wall, what will it become and who will take over?

BWE said...

Most of the other commentators have beat me to a lot of obvious names, but sheesh, how about Frances Elkins? Several of her best interiors are as good as it gets

Let's face it: Love it or hate it (I mostly hate it despite their kind mention of my business several years ago), Architectural Digest is unfettered by such inconveniences as an intellectual approach or a solid knowledge of design history. And no, I don't subscribe. Why bother when there are still so many better?

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

EMILY-


You blonde bombshell, you!
You bold blonde who goes where others fear to tread!

A friend, chortling, read me the AD 20 and AD 100 list on the phone. I got a fast, fierce headache. My head was invaded by twisting and torquing nonsense. Silliness. Momentarily. These things are transitory...like AD, one imagines.

Some deranged assistant on some mind-altering substances, late at night, went through past issues of AD and...fictioned up a kind of vertiginously foolish 'list'. The 20 would all have been published by AD? Their record with John Dickinson, though, was spotty. He did not admire.
Twenty? I think they meant to say 20th C? or all-time? It is to laugh. Ridicule! It makes no sense.

The AD 100--is their way of listing people they publish, and keeping them close. You know the old line 'We don't want to publish your design, but Paige would be upset if you published it elsewhere.' I've had calls from designers in tears from this foolishness.Detestible.
It is their way of manipulating designers, who (still?) fear Paige's wrath and banishment.
Designers know that there are some clients (nouveaux riches) who are impressed, with instant wealth and no other guidance available to them.

Martin Sheen, isnt' he dead? John Travolta, that icon of design. The Sopranos actor! An arbiter of taste.

But this list takes their psychedelia many steps further.
As many have noted 'I stopped reading it years ago'. Dentist's waiting room: no, I would rather read Vogue.
Emily, you deserve a medal!
cheers and happy days, DIANE
www.thestylesaloniste.com

tartanscot said...

I guess the worst thing I can say about AD - is that it arrived a last week sometime, and it's still waiting in its plastic mailing cover - un-opened and un-read on the console in my office.

soodie :: said...

EEE, what another fantastic topic you have brought up. i need to pick up a copy of AD.

am i missing something on the AD list: were any of these designers reformers? did they provide new solutions to design problems? or were many regurgitating, reorganization a formula gone before.

i'm casting my vote with you on josef hoffman (stars in my eyes when i look at his work) and william morris and JM frank. i would love to have seen interiors created by christopher dresser based upon his creations. love your point about eileen gray! stylistically with you on robert adam and then adding percier and fontaine. also adding candance wheeler (move over elsie de wolfe), asking to re-examine mies van der rohe and instead recognize how influential his partner lilly reich was in creating these interiors (and in fact mies didn't design a piece of furniture after he dumped her), charlotte perriand and her 'bar under roof'! acknowledge how influential gerrit rietveld's schroder house was...

and lastly, PLEASE, there is a difference between an interior decorator and an interior designer. let us recognize that!

(oh and colin morrow from the 70s)

Emily Evans Eerdmans said...

Right back at you, Diane! Bully for you to expose AD's ruling by fear. Like you, I have been shocked to hear of Ms. Rense's blackballing techniques... It has worked for decades, but when looking at their new 100 list, the empress looks pretty naked to me...

liz.blog said...

Your examples are so beautiful!

the.neo.lifestyle said...

Hello, I follow your opinion, such at short list. Mine is as yours very large, so many people over several century's inspired us, what a limitation.

AD, pffffff don't know who fill the arcticle but that person made a quick job and isn't very interested in taste it seems :-s

David

penelopebianchi said...

I was actually so infuriated that my favorite "idols", Nancy Lancaster, Billy Baldwin, Albert Hadley, Sister Parish, among others......(it was absurd) I threw it away in the trash!
I didn't even want to donate it to the hospital (they told me if it weren't for me, Spanish tv is all that would be in the waiting rooms!)
That issue is dreck. (did I make up that word? It just sounds right)
I love DD Saeks..."a deranged assistant on some mind-altering drugs" Classic.

Ted Graber????? Sheesh. Mediocre if ever there was one. Ho hum! No Frances Elkins? GRRRRRRR>

By the way, I call myself (and always have, what Mark Hampton, Bunny Williams, Sister Parish and many others have called themselves for years: a "Decorator" ! Rose Cumming!?
Some young person in the sample department told me "You simply MUST call yourself a "designer"!!!!

Why? Emily, what is the difference? If anyone knows, it would be you!!

I was so mad, now I can't remember if Madeline Castaing was on that list!

Somehow I have fallen off your wagon! I need to get back on your list!!!