Sydney Living Museums recently opened a colourful, dynamic new exhibition celebrating the career of one Australia’s first independent and most influential interior designers—Marion Hall Best: Interiors at the Museum of Sydney.
Best’s career spanned four decades from the mid–1930s, a period of transition from the department store decorators and art furnishers of the 1920s, to the independent professional designers of today. When talking about Marion’s work the words ‘electrifying’, ‘vital’ and ‘avant-garde’ come to mind.
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Best’s interior decorating schemes were ahead of its time; she used clearly modern aesthetics in a time when other interior designers preferred a subdued palette and period furniture. She claimed that “gentle, soft colours … are not restful, but dreary, sapping the energy and the mind”. In contrast, “bright clear colours challenge the mind.”
Her interior decorating style vibrated with colour through her signature glazed painted finishes on walls and ceilings. “Best had a love of colour and an uncanny ability to use it to transform a room. Sydney Living Museums holds the largest collection of textiles, furnishings, ephemera, and imagery relating to Best’s work, which will be on display in this exhibition showcasing her career,” says exhibition curator Michael Lech. She further notes that, “Best’s ability to transform space through colour has rarely been matched. Her work, once seen, was seldom forgotten.”
Although she designed private commissions, Best’s work was promoted broadly through photographs and articles in popular magazines and newspapers, exhibition display rooms, and at her two shops in Queen Street, Woollahra (1939–74) and Rowe Street, Sydney (1949–61). She is attributed with introducing international modernism to the Australian market by importing furniture and furnishings from all over the world.
Mark Goggin, Executive Director, Sydney Living Museums said, “Marion Hall Best: Interiors is a part of our Home & Architecture series, celebrating modernism in Australia, the renewed public interest in its bold, simple, aesthetic and its significance to Sydney’s heritage.”
This exhibition is part of Sydney Living Museums’ larger “A Modernist Season” that runs between July and November. Marion Hall Best: Interiors is on till November 12