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DESIGN

“The World of Charles and Ray Eames”

Ray Eames, study for “An Exhibition for Modern Living,” 1949, graphite, paper, and photocollage on paper, 8 1/4 × 11 3/4". © Eames Office, LLC.

BEGINNING WITH the acclaimed 1999–2002 traveling exhibition “The Work of Charles and Ray Eames: A Legacy of Invention,” organized by the US Library of Congress in collaboration with the Vitra Design Museum in Germany, the twenty-first century has seen a renewed academic and institutional interest in the Eameses’ work, even as the public’s intellectual curiosity in the couple has only continued to grow. Yet the Barbican Art Gallery’s current retrospective, “The World of Charles and Ray Eames,” curated by Catherine Ince, has still managed to present an unusually rich grouping of firsts: unexpected chair prototypes; a new replica of one of the couple’s more remarkable inventions—a fifteen-foot-tall gravity-powered xylophone titled Musical Tower from the mid-1950s—whereby a small ball strikes a series of colored metal keys as it makes its way down the instrument’s vertical,

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