“Half an astute peasant and half a real god”. This is how American art lover and collector Peggy Guggenheim described Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi in her 1960 memoir, Out of This Century: Confessions of an Art Addict.
Born in Hobița, Gorj county, Constantin Brancusi (Brâncuși in Romanian spelling) is indisputably Romania’s most acclaimed artist. Although an accomplished sculptor by the time he arrived in Paris (in 1904, in his late twenties), it was in the French capital where he gained international recognition, being regarded as the most innovative and influential sculptor of the early 20th century, “the high priest of Modernism”, as Conor Jordan, the Modern Art specialist, famously called him.
Refusing to work under Rodin, “because nothing grows under large trees”, Brancusi created his own personal style. He worked straight on the materials (marble, stone, bronze, wood, and metal), developing the technique of direct carving and high polishing. His work is seen as abstract, futuristic and minimalistic—long before Minimalism developed as a concept—yet myth-based and primitive-like. To this day, his style and techniques are emulated, his mindset replicated, and he continues to inspire creators all over the world.
From toys and furniture to fashion and Instagram feeds, here are some products inspired by Brancusi:
Minitremu is the creative project of the artist duo Monotremu (Laura Borotea and Gabriel Boldiș) and it was sparkled by the birth of their son. In an attempt to bring the art closer to kids, and make it more accesible—even in the early stages of life—Minitremu converts Brancusi’s famous works, like the Endless Column or the Table of Silence, into colourful toys, small-scale replicas that are produced 100% from non-toxic materials in Mureș county.
Caprice is the small business of an Italian family. Inspired by both traditional art and modern design, their products are handcrafted in limited series, using wood from sustainable forests, as well as natural raw materials, non-toxic paints and natural oils and waxes. Caprice.07 is a bookcase inspired by Brancusi’s Endless Column and was designed by Alessandro Soliani.
Every year, for Easter, French chocolatier Jadis et Gourmande produces a collection of chocolate eggs inspired by great artists. Œuf à la manière de Brancusi, manufactured in 2013 from dark, milk or white chocolate, was inspired by the bronze sculpture Sleeping Muse and it came in 3 sizes, while its price varied between 20 and 29 euros.
Xinú is a niche parfume brand from Mexico that combines minimalist design with the richness of local flora. The refined bottle, inspired by the Table of Silence, is formed by placing two domes on each other. The top dome is made of wood, while the glass container can have double functionality: once the perfume bottle is empty, it can serve as a decorative object—a vase or a incense holder. Xinú is by no means the only perfume brand to be inspired by Brancusi: Egyptian designer Karim Rashid created for Kenzo Amour a bottle resembling the Bird in Space sculpture, Armani Privé’s fragrance bottles were designed with the Fish sculpture in mind, and most recently, Lady Gaga’s egg-shaped bottle for her perfume Fame, was inspired by Brancusi’s many egg-shaped sculptures, like The Newborn or Beginning of the World.
Ornaments are probably the easiest form of emulation, thanks to such a wide variety of materials, shapes or sizes. As a result, there a hundreds of designs based on the sculptures, with Bird in Space and The Endless Column being the most sought after. Australian designer and sculptor Holly Ryan handcrafts minimalist and sculptural jewellery inspired by art and artists such as Matisse, Picasso or Brancusi and works with locally sourced and sustainably produced materials.
With fashion being such a versatile medium—just like jewellery—, it’s not surprising that Brancusi’s work continues to fascinate and inspire fashion designers to this day, as much as the Romanian blouse. It probably started with the founding father of the Art Deco movement, Paul Poiret, a good friend of Brancusi’s, who designed a dress inspired by Măiastra, and continued over the years with many others, like Behnaz Sarafpour, Rick Owens, Lilly Heine, Jonathan Saunders or Stephanie Rolland, among others. In one of the most recent homages paid to the Romanian sculptor, Italian fashion designer Valentino used accessories inspired by the bronze sculptures Prometheus or The Newborn for his Sala Bianca 945 collection in 2014, as well as some dresses that evoked the fluidity of the feminine figure in the artist’s vision.
The Endless Column handle on Instagram is the brainchild of two Romanian creatives, Gabriel Botărel and Alex Eftimie, who met—as it happens—not in Romania, but in NY. While The Endless Column sculpture in Târgu Jiu is finite, measuring almost 30 metres in height, the Instagram column is, indeed, infinite. The project was envisioned as a modern tribute to the great sculptor, with Romanian artists invited to join in and bring their own vision into the mix. Ghica Popa, Raluca Băraru, Tudor Cucu, Tea Tomescu, Paul Dersidan, Miruna Macri, and many other illustrators already contributed to the project, with new names expected to collaborate in the future.
While on Instagram, it’s also worth checking Brancusiana, a project curated by Romanian artist Mircea Cantor, where he gathers images of paraphernalia related to Brancusi’s work, from stamps and comics to everyday objects and curious representations of the motifs used in his work. The initiative is in fact a natural follow-up of Cantor’s Pompidou exhibition in 2017—La partie invisible de l’infini (the invisible part of infinity)—a sort of anthropological endeavour, with objects and photos that attest how the figure and work of Constantin Brancusi was handled / manipulated by the political powers.
Featured image: Suzi Edwards-Alexander / flickr