Alexander Girard

 

GIRARD, ALEXANDER
(1907–1983)
was an important textile designer of the mid-twentieth century and, with his wife, Susan, one of the greatest collectors of international folk art of his time. Born in NewYork, he grew up in Florence, Italy, attended school in England, and trained as an architect in London and Rome. He worked for a short time in Europe before moving to the United States.In 1932 Alexander Girard opened his first United States architecture and design office, in New York City. He moved to Detroit in 1937, where he created some of his most important interiors, among them the headquarters of the Ford Motor Company. He received significant recognition and achieved success as a designer in NewYork in the 1950s as director of the textile division of the design firm Herman Miller; as a designer at the Museum of Modern Art; and as the designer of tworestaurants, L’Etoile and La Fonda del Sol.Girard, who collected miniatures as a child, and his wife began to collect folk art seriously in 1953, when they purchased a house and he opened an office in SantaFe, New Mexico. While living in New Mexico, the focus of their collection became Latino folk art. They eventually amassed more than 100,000 items from around theworld, but the collection’s main focus remained on Latino art from Mexico and Latin America. The Girards lived with part of their collection, but because of its sizemuch of it was kept in storage until 1978, when they donated 106,000 works to the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe.The Girards’ gift quintupled the size of the museum. Their donation included textiles, from European samplers to sub-Saharan African clothing; religious anddevotional art from eighteen countries; puppets from Asia and Europe; and European toy theaters. Girard was particularly enthusiastic about the art of the NativeAmerican and the Hispano-Latino cultures of the southwestern United States, and his collection includes Cochiti storyteller figures, Navajo pictorial weavings, andcarvings by northern New Mexicans. A selection of 10,000 items from the collection was put on permanent view in the installation, designed by Alexander Girard,“Multiple Visions: A Common Bond,” when the Girard Wing of the museum opened in 1982.
See also
Miniatures; Native American Folk Art;

Religious Folk Art
.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Glassie, Henry.
The Spirit of American Folk Art: The Girard Collection at the Museum of International Folk Art.
New York and Santa Fe, N. Mex., 1989.Museum of International Folk Art.
Folk Art from the Global Village: The Girard Collection at the Museum of International Folk Art.
Santa Fe, N. Mex., 1995.