Polka Dots and Civil Rights: Doug and Gene Meyer

Curator: Nancy Sharon Collins
date: April 8, 2013
Categories: Entertainment Design, Environmental Design
Tags: architecture, editorial design, Fashion, interiors, mid-century design, style
Invitation and catalog cover designed by Doug Meyer and Jakob Rosenzweig (Original photo by Mark Roskams / Scan courtesy Doug Meyer)

Doug and Gene Meyer: The Longue Vue Installation,” was a decorative arts, fashion and design exhibition curated by Jeff McKay earlier this year in New Orleans. (Note from author: I’m terribly envious of what these bright brothers, a style monger and the spirit of a social activist socialite pulled off in my hometown. This group took a mere retrospective of the Meyers’ work and created a blockbuster event.)

In 1959, when Edith Stern’s beloved husband, Edgar Stern, passed away, she turned her enormous energies and hefty pocketbook from defending civil rights and supporting issues of social justice and culture (according to the Times-Picayune last year, the Sterns “were the first couple of New Orleans philanthropy”) to collecting modern art. In their grand residence, Longue Vue (one of the last great houses to be custom-built in America during the Country Place Era), English oak and needlepoint were nudged out by Edith’s post-bereavement passion for Wassily Kandinsky, Victor Vasarely, Pablo Picasso, Naum Gabo, Jean Arp, Barbara Hepworth and Jesús Soto.


In 2012, when Jeff McKay (genius adman-cum-design curator and writer) visited Longue Vue House and Gardens, he simply had to write about it, and so he did. When Joe Baker, then Longue Vue’s executive director, read Jeff’s article he immediately picked up the phone and said, “You must curate for us!” And curate Jeff did.  


The result, “Doug and Gene Meyer: The Longue Vue Installation,” was in fact an intervention. As explained by McKay: if uber-chic Mrs. Stern were alive today, and wanted a few discrete decorating touch-ups, surely she would turn to the Meyer brothers. The installation was in three parts: The brother’s early work (Gene’s fashion and Doug’s interior design) displayed in Longue Vue’s exhibition galleries; the intervention itself, in which the Meyer brothers’ ultra-contemporary furniture, textiles, fashion and accessories were deftly insinuated throughout Edith’s sumptuous interiors. And finally, “The Cube” transformed the Stern’s guest house (known as Whim House), into a glimpse of Longue Vue circa 2042 via Gene and Doug’s visionary eyes.

Michael Smith
In “The Cube” installation in Longue Vue’s Whim House, the Meyer brothers envision what Mrs. Stern’s decor might have looked like in 2042.

Michael Smith
Long view of Longue Vue’s Spanish Court with Doug and Gene Meyer tables.

Michael Smith
Mrs. Stern’s art gallery at Longue Vue. Here, Victor Vasarely’s Zador is seen with a pair of Rococo revival side chairs draped in Gene Meyer–printed silk scarves (1992). The Posiatano table (2005) is by Doug and Gene Meyer.

Michael Smith
Entry installation to “The Cube” in the Whim House.

“Doug and Gene Meyer: The Longue Vue Installation” will be a lasting tribute to one of America’s grand dames of modern style and the decorative arts, Edith Stern. That the combined genius of Jeff McKay, Doug and Gene Meyer were able to collaborate with Edith’s spirit, evolving a somewhat forgotten mid-century treasure into a vibrant, vital cultural happening, is a testament to the ongoing virtues and graces of philanthropy and historic institutions in this country.


Prologue: It should be noted that, at the time of the opening event, the most popular local gossip was that pretty young boys in nothing but bright colored socks and scanty panties were seen cavorting, somewhere at Longue Vue, in a fantastic mirror cube. Having read Mrs. Stern’s biography, this author can attest that a) Mrs. Stern would definitely approve, and that b) she would have made sure that the socks and panties were Meyer brother designs.


Museum director: Joe Baker

Guest curator: Jeff McKay

Exhibition management: Emily Wilkerson and Lenora Costa

Construction of exhibition displays: Tim Evans, Ryal Skaggs, Mathew and John Skaggs

Catalog essays about Doug and Gene: Amy Fine Collins and Wendy Goodman

Catalog design execution: Jakob Rosenzweig

Exhibition photography: Michael Smith

Portrait: Mark Roskams

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