étienne + robial. graphisme & collection, de futuropolis à canal+

from 10 November 2022 to 11 June 2023

The musée des Arts décoratifs is paying homage to the work of Étienne Robial with a retrospective exhibition from November 10, 2022 to June 11, 2023. étienne + robial. graphisme & collection, de futuropolis à canal+ retraces the exceptional career of this prolific and eclectic creator through works ranging from posters and drawings to videos, books and furniture. Graphic artist, publisher, artistic director, professor and collector, Étienne Robial has left a strong mark on the French audiovisual landscape over the past 50 years by creating the concept of ‘habillage’ – audiovisual presentations – for television stations such as Canal+ and M6. He co-founded the publishing house Futuropolis, thus contributing to the literary recognition of “auteur” comic books. He redesigned and created the artwork for magazines such as Métal Hurlant, (À Suivre), Télérama, Les Inrockuptibles and, more recently, L’Équipe. The exhibition invites viewers into his world of graphic art, creating dialogue between his professional projects and pieces from his private collection including books, decorative objects, light fixtures, unique utensils and unique utensils. The exhibition was staged by Kevin Lebouvier.

M6 logo, On/Off productions 1987
© Étienne Robial

Born in Rouen in 1945, Étienne Robial studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Rouen and at the École des Arts et Métiers in Vevey, Switzerland. He started his career in 1970 as artistic director for the Barclay record label and Editions Filipacchi, helped design the initial concept for Le Point, and redesigned the artwork for Télérama.

Tardi, One of the first Futuropolis titles
© Étienne Robial

In 1972, after buying a bookstore specializing in comics, he co-founded the Futuropolis publishing house with Florence Cestac and worked to gain recognition for “auteur” comic books with authors such as Tardi, Bilal, Moebius, Götting, Joost Swarte, Ever Meulen, Baudoin, Menu, Chauzy, Jeanne Puchol and Miles Hyman, to name a few. He pursued his publishing activity until 1994, before selling the business to Editions Gallimard.

Alongside his Futuropolis adventure, he founded the On/Off production studio in 1982, where he designed the “habillage” – a termed he coined for audiovisual presentations – for major television stations like Canal+, where he remained general artistic director from its creation in 1984 until 2009. He designed the logo for the group’s stations, 4,700 main titles and an immediately identifiable graphic system.

La Sept logo, On/Off productions 1986
© Étienne Robial

He is also the man behind the presentations for La Sept (1986) and M6 (1987), as well as RTL9 (1995) and I-Télé (2003). More recently, he created the artwork for the magazine Les Inrockuptibles and the brand L’Équipe. He has also created the graphic identities of various sports and cultural institutions – the PSG (Paris-Saint Germain football club), the CNC (Centre National du Cinéma et de l’Image Animée), the RSA (Revenu de Solidarité Active) – and enhanced their evolving graphic systems. In 2006, he received the Promax Broadcast Design Outstanding Achievement Award.

For the past 26 years, he has been a professor at the Penninghen school of art direction and interior architecture.

The themed exhibition follows Etienne Robial’s career from his Futuropolis period (1972 to 1994) to his Canal+ years with the founding of the On/Off production studio (1982 to present).

L’Équipe magazine logo, On/Off productions 2016
© Étienne Robial

The exhibition begins with the Futuropolis years, shedding light on the work of the avant-garde comic book publisher through a selection of book collections by major authors, as well as drawings, catalogues and advertising materials.

The exhibition also reveals the creator’s influences and his personal, artistic world. An avid collector, Étienne Robial has put together an extensive collective of designer pieces from the modernist and functionalist movements of the 20th century (chairs by Mallet-Stevens, Mart Stam and Gerrit Rietveld, glassware by Wilhelm Wagenfeld, lamp by Marianne Brandt, alarm clock and calculators by Dieter Rams for Braun, among others) that punctuate the exhibition, along with the essential tools for any graphic creation: rulers, triangles, T-squares, ruling pens, compasses, drawing pencils and mechanical pencils.

  • (A SUIVRE), Cover, 1977
    © Étienne Robial
  • Métal Hurlant, Cover 1975
    © Étienne Robial

A reproduction of his library bookcases, featuring collections such as Club du Livre and Série Noire, reveals his references, his sources of inspiration and his “heroes”: Kasimir Malevitch, Jean Arp, Theo van Doesburg, Josef Albers, Paul Rand, Max Bill, Willem Sandberg, Bruno Munari and Ed Ruscha, to name a few.

A section is devoted to education and Étienne Robial’s distinctive approach to teaching graphic design to his students.

The exhibition concludes with the three main pillars of Étienne Robial’s graphic world: forms, colors, and alphabets. Each plays a fundamental part in what defines his work, proportions and a regulating layout.

The musée des Arts décoratifs, boasting one of the richest and oldest graphic art collections in France from the 19th century to the present day, is pleased to present the first major retrospective of one of the leading figures on the French contemporary graphic art scene. The museum is pursuing its series of exhibitions on contemporary graphic artists, which has included past tributes to Antoine+Manuel, graphiste et designer (2009), Michal Batory, artisan de l’affiche (2011), Typorama, Philippe Apeloig (2013), and more recently Roman Cieslewicz, la fabrique des images (2018).

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