Posted by: jbwuk | February 28, 2012

Wunderkind or Enfant Terrible? Ron Arad at JBW

A review of Ron Arad’s talk about his career as designer and architect at Jewish Book Week on 22 February 2012

“What’s the difference between a Wunderkind and an Enfant Terrible?”

Answer: “A wunderkind works the telephone. An enfant terrible throws it. A little farther along the career path, one may become a prima donna who doesn’t answer the phone at all.”

 I had to ‘wiki’ how old Ron Arad was – born in 1951 it says I hope reliably – that makes him just over 60 I think. The freshness of his ideas and ingenuity, and his continuing curiosity of the world defy his age – can one still be an enfant terrible at 60?

He is a sort of punk designer / conceptual artist supplying must have pieces for those in the know about what is ‘now’. Over the last forty or so years, since living and working in London, he has created more than his fair share of iconic pieces. From armchairs and recliners to the absolutely brilliant new bicycle wheel – (if you haven’t seen it  look here)

He referred to his ‘Well Tempered’ chair as a caricature of a chair made from sheet steel – perhaps he is a caricature of what we expect of our designers – eccentric and full of chutzpah. (What’s his trademark hat about? – a felt thing that’s a cross between a Cavalier’s helmet and a Golden Girl’s visor.)

Throughout his presentation the hall was filled mildly sycophantic but adoring chortles from the audience – ‘What’s our Ron gone and done this time?’ – the wayward, brilliant child (of Israel) who has been allowed to play and imagine like a kindergarden pupil all his life, and become a multi-millionaire at it. Brilliant.

He has such a broad output: buildings in Israel, huge sculptures in Korea, whilst still devising new ways to work tempered steel to an inch of its life, and being lauded at retrospective shows around the world marking him as one of the most significant designers of his age.

 A really enjoyable presentation – no signs of the prima donna in him yet.

Daniel Leon is an architect in private practice in London.



  1. loved your very perceptive review almost as much as I loved his presentation.

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