If you’re a fan of mid-century modern furniture, the Powerhouse Museum’s current display is a must-see. 7 Australian Designers profiles a number of Australia’s celebrated modernists and includes iconic furniture by Grant Featherston, Gordon Andrews, Douglas Snelling, Clement Meadmore and Steven Kalmar.
The name of the display is a reference to the original 7 Designers exhibition staged in 1948 at David Jones’ Art Gallery in Sydney, which featured work by both Andrews and Kalmar. As an intern at the Powerhouse, I’ve been lucky enough to take a closer look a lesser-known modern designer, Professor George Korody (1900–1957), who also featured in the David Jones exhibition.
Not a great deal is known about Professor Korody, apart from what we can glean from contemporary press coverage. He originated from Hungary where he worked as a university professor, architect and interior designer, completing notable projects such as the award-winning display at the Hungarian pavilion at the 1937 Paris International Exposition. In 1939, Korody relocated to Sydney and began designing interiors, furniture and furnishings suitable for Australian living conditions.
Korody’s most enduring legacy was his influential furniture outlet, Artes Studios. Founded in collaboration with Elsie Segaert in 1945, Artes originally sold a range of contemporary furniture and furnishings designed by Korody himself.
The Powerhouse collection contains examples of Korody’s Artes furniture, including a chair and footstool made of woven cane and locally-sourced coachwood. The pair neatly embodies the design principles he promoted on numerous occasions. In a 1949 newspaper feature titled “Design for Happiness”, Korody declared that contemporary furniture should be ‘lightweight, of simple construction and without any meaningless ornamentation’, making it ‘inexpensive, easy to mass produce and easy to clean’.
The furniture’s natural finish is also typical of his belief in the modernist tenet of ‘truth to materials’. In the same feature, he wrote that ‘materials should be treated according to their characteristics…putting dark stains on beautiful Australian grained timbers for the sake of imitating Continental dark wood furniture is a crime’.
Importantly, Korody’s furniture was responsive to the smaller interiors of post-war Australian homes. Artes Studios championed the use of convertible furniture, selling a popular range of multi-purpose, combinable units designed to maximise space in small living areas.
Michelle Mortimer, Powerhouse curatorial intern, November 2013.