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A new retrospective celebrates Tallon’s forward-looking creations, which ranged from high-speed trains to folding chairs to the first portable TV.

It seems strange then that one of their most brilliant precursors, the French industrial designer Roger Tallon, whose revolutionary creations are used today by millions, is still virtually unknown to the general public, even inside France.

Now, the Musée des Arts décoratifs in Paris has taken a step toward correcting that with an extensive retrospectively aptly titled “Roger Tallon, Design in Motion.” It aims to shine the spotlight on the unsung French design pioneer, whose work on trains, planes and whole transportation networks, among countless other projects, was game-changing. (Tallon died in 2011 at the age of 82.)

The embodiment of avant-garde, Tallon’s repertoire dazzles. It ranges from the first portable television (circa 1963), cameras for Pathé and slide projectors for Kodak to state-of-the art machine tools, household appliances and, notably, furniture: the flat-folding TS chair; the Cryptogamme stool; the elegant, practical Wimpy chair, for France’s first fast-food chain. Then there are portable typewriters, flip-open ski boots, waterproof watches and a whole lot more, rising to a stunning peak in his transportation design.

...After years of waiting in the wings, Paulin’s vintage furniture has become a desirable collectible. Does the same turnaround await Tallon’s designs? His Lip watches already have a partisans among vintage collectors, some of whom lent examples to the retrospective. New York gallery Demisch Danant offers such unusual Tallon pieces as a pair of 1966 palissander, steel, aluminum and leather chairs produced by Flambo. Rare Zombie chairs, the Metamorphic Trapezoidal bed and various versions of the iconic staircase have begun to turn up at fairs like Design Miami and have elicited growing interest online.

“No one cared about Paulin’s Élysée Palace furniture when we first showed it ten years ago. Now prices — and desire — have exploded,” says gallerist Stephane Danant. “It will take time for Tallon, too.”

Text by Jean Bond Rafferty

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