Charles and Ray Visited India Before The Beatles Posted June 20, 2014 by Daniel Ostroff

This review of a new book on Ettore Sottsass and India reminds artist and Eames Office archivist, Llisa Demetrios, of the Eames connection to India.

In the June issue of Metropolis magazine, there was a review of a new book about the designer Ettore Sottsass called, Sottsass and India.

Says Llisa Demetrios:  “What made me smile was that I had not thought of the timing of Charles & Ray’s visit to India preceding the Beatles!”

Charles and Ray Eames went to the country to prepare their ground-breaking and still-relevant document called, The India Report.

From the Metropolis review:  “In the autumn of 1961, Sottsass and Fernanda [Pivano, his wife] traveled to India for the first time.  It was three years after the Eameses had visited, and five years before the Beatles were to land in New Delhi.  Like the Eameses, Sottsass was there to work: The chemical giant Montedison paid for the trip, to have a trade-fair stand designed.  India was, after all, on an aggressive nation-building mission, and sought industrial collaborations from the developed world.  The 44-year-old Sottsass brought back typical first impressions—poverty, color, cows, and yogis—and, unfortunately, a form of nephritis considered terminal in Italy.  Thanks to Roberto Olivetti, Sottsass made a recovery from this serious ailment at the Stanford Medical Center in Palo Alto, California.”

Charles and Ray, were involved with India even before The India Report.  From 1954-1955, they made a film of Alexander Girard’s ground-breaking exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, Textiles and Ornamental Arts of India.

There’s another Eames connection to Sottsass.  It was Herman Miller design director, George Nelson, who, in 1946, brought the Eameses and their work into Herman Miller.  A few years later, George Nelson & Associates gave Ettore Sottsass his first job in America.

Mathur2-270Charles and Ray Eames with the scholar of Asian art and aesthetics Pritwish Neogy, in an outdoor photography stall, Delhi, January 6, 1958 (photograph © Eames Office, LLC)