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Frederick John Kiesler

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Frederick John Kiesler

F. Kiesler at the Internationale Ausstellung neuer

Theatertechnik, Vienna. 1924.


September 22, 1890

Chernivtsi, Austria-Hungary


December 27, 1965 (aged 75)

New York City



Known for

Architect, Designer

Notable work

Shrine of the Book (195765)

Frederick John Kiesler (Czernowitz or Tschernovitz, Austro-Hungarian

Empire (now Chernivtsi, Ukraine), September 22, 1890 New York City, December 27,
1965) (born as Friedrich Kiesler). Austrian-American architect, theoretician, theater
designer, artist and sculptor.

1 Biography

2 Design and architectural career

3 Recognition and awards

4 Exhibitions

5 References

6 Sources

7 Further reading

8 External links

Beginning in 190809, Kiesler studied at the Technische Hochschule in Vienna. From
191012, he attended painting and printmaking classes at the Akademie der bildenden
Knste, both in Vienna. He did not finish the architecture curriculum at the Technische
He married Stefanie (Stefi) Frischer (18961963) in 1920, and they moved to New York
City in 1926, where he lived until his death. Kiesler collaborated there early on with
the Surrealists, including Marcel Duchamp. His writing was extensive, and his theoretical
work embraced two lengthy manifestos, the article "Pseudo-Functionalism in Modern
Architecture" (Partisan Review, July 1949) and the book Contemporary Art Applied to the
Store and Its Display (New York: Brentano, 1930).
In 1964, the year before his death, Kiesler married Lillian Olinsey, his longtime secretary. In
May 1965, he traveled to Jerusalem for the inauguration of the Shrine of the Book; seven
months later he died in New York City.

Design and architectural career[edit]

Kiesler was productive as a theater and art-exhibition designer in the 1920s in Vienna
and Berlin. In 1920, he started a brief collaboration with architect Adolf Loos and, in 1923,
became a member of the De Stijl group in 1923. Kiesler was friendly with many of the major
figures of the European avant-garde, which may have influenced his heretical approach to
artistic theories and practices.
Kiesler arranged the world premiere in Vienna on September 24, 1924, of the 16-minute
film Ballet mcanique, directed by Dudley Murphy and Fernand Lger, with Man Ray. In
November 1975, Lillian Kiesler, Frederick's second wife, found Lger's original
spliced 35mm, 16-minute version of the film in the closet of their week-end house in
the Hamptonson Long Island, near New York City. This version, restored by Anthology Film
Archives, has since been included in the documentary film compilation Unseen Cinema:
Early American Avant-Garde Film 1893-1941 (released as a seven-disc DVD set by Image
Entertainment, October 2005). The music for the film was originally composed by George
Antheil, who used it to create a separate concert piece, also named Ballet mcanique,
which premiered in Paris in 1926.
His architectural designs include the Film Guild Cinema (1929) in New York City and,
with Armand Phillip Bartos, the Shrine of the Book (1965) in Jerusalem, Israel.[1]
From 1937 to 1943, Kiesler was the director of the Laboratory for Design Correlation within
the Department of Architecture at Columbia University, where the study program was more
pragmatic and commercially oriented than his deep, theoretical concepts and ideas, such

as those about "correalism" or "continuity," which concern the relationship among space,
people, objects and concepts.[2]
For his object designs, such as the biomorphic furniture in his Abstract Gallery room
of Peggy Guggenheims The Art of This Century Gallery art salon (1942), for example. For
it, he sought to dissolve the visual, real, image, and environment into a free-flowing space.
He likewise pursued this approach with his Endless House, exhibited in maquette form in
195859 at The Museum of Modern Art. The project stemmed from his shop-window
displays of the 1920s and his Film Guild Cinema in New York City, mentioned above.
Pursuing display and art-gallery work, he was a window designer for Saks Fifth
Avenue from 1928 to 1930. Earlier in his career in Europe, Kiesler invented the 1924 L+T
(Leger und Trager) radical hanging system for galleries and museums.
His unorthodox architectural drawings and plans that he called "polydimensional" were
somewhat akin to Surrealist automatic drawings.
He designed some intriguing furniture, a few pieces of which were featured in the yearbook
of the short-lived American Union of Decorative Artists (AUDAC); he was a founding
member of the organization in 1930. Some models of the furniture none of which was
reproduced in numbers as intended have been posthumously manufactured in limited
quantities by various firms in Europe since 1990. The most popular has been the castaluminum "Two-Part Nesting Table" (1935).

Recognition and awards[edit]

Kiesler was often shunned by his peers, although he was chosen in 1952 as one of "the 15
leading artists at mid-century" by The Museum of Modern Art and in 1957 became a fellow
of the Graham Foundation in Chicago. Israeli architects disapproved of his and Bartos's
serving as the architects for the Shrine of the Book (195765) because they were not
Israelis, even though they were Jews. Further objections to Kiesler were that he had not
completed his architecture studies and had built no structures, despite having been a
licensed architect in New York State since 1930. One of his colleagues at Columbia
University joked: "If Kiesler wants to hold two pieces of wood together, he pretends he's
never heard of nails or screws. He tests the tensile strengths of various metal alloys,
experiments with different methods and shapes, and after six months comes up with a very
expensive device that holds two pieces of wood together almost as well as a screw". [3]
The Austrian Frederick and Lillian Kiesler Private Foundation was established in 1997 in
Vienna and biennially grants the Kiesler Prize for Architecture and the Arts.


"Frederick Kiesler", Hochschule fr angewandte Kunst, Vienna, 1975

"Friedrich [sic] KieslerVisionr, 18901965", Museum moderner Kunst, Vienna,

and touring, from 1988

"Friedrick [sic] Kiesler", Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, 1989

Kiesler drawings and reproduction furniture, Jason McCoy Gallery, New York City,

"Frederick Kiesler: arte, architettura, ambiente", Milan, Italy, 1995

"Friederick [sic] Kiesler: artiste-architecte", Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, July

3-October 21, 1996

"Frederick Kiesler: Endless", Jason McCoy Gallery, New York City, 2008

"Frederick Kiesler: Co-Realities", Drawing Center, New York City, 2008