Marion Hall Best: Interiors at the Hazelhurst Arts Centre

Hazelhurst Arts Centre will open a new exhibition in June highlighting the work of Marion Hall Best (1905-1988), Sydney’s pre-eminent interior designer of the 20th century. 

She was one of the first independent and most influential interior designers in Australia. 

Marion Hall Best: Interiors celebrates modernism in Australia and the renewed public interest in its bold, simple, aesthetic  said the curator of the exhibition, Michael Lech.

‘‘Best’s ability to transform space through colour has rarely been matched. Her work, once seen, was seldom forgotten,’’ Mr Lech said.

The exhibition colourfully charts the work of Marion Hall Best and will display original furniture, fabrics, furnishings and fashion over the four decades from the mid-1930s. 

‘‘We are thrilled to bring this vibrant exhibition to Hazelhurst Arts Centre as Marion Best was such an important designer, who many people will remember,’’  said Belinda Hanrahan, director, Hazelhurst Arts Centre.

Sutherland Shire Mayor, Carmelo Pesce said the council was delighted to have an exhibition from Sydney Living Museums in the shire.

‘‘This is another example of how Hazelhurst Arts Centre works collaboratively with other museums and galleries to bring outstanding exhibitions to the Sutherland Shire for people to enjoy,’’ Cr Pesce said.

This exhibition comes from Sydney Living Museums which holds the largest collection of textiles, furnishings, ephemera and imagery relating to Best’s work, much of which will be on display in this exhibition showcasing her career. 

Best’s work was promoted more broadly through photographs and articles in popular magazines and newspapers, exhibition display rooms and in her two shops in Queen Street, Woollahra (1939–74) and Rowe Street, Sydney (1949–61).

Described as electrifying, vital and avant-garde, Best’s interior decorating schemes were unashamedly modern at a time when other interior designers preferred a subdued palette and period furniture. 

She claimed that ‘‘gentle, soft colours … are not restful, but dreary, sapping the energy and the mind’’; by contrast, ‘‘bright clear colours challenge the mind.’’

Her interior decorating style vibrated with colour through her signature glazed painted finishes on walls and ceilings.

Best had a love of colour and an uncanny ability to use it to transform a room. 

Best was inspired by the modernist movement and colour theory of artists of the interwar years.

She is attributed with introducing international modernism to the Australian market through importing furniture and furnishings from all over the world including: textiles by Marimekko, Jim Thompson Thai silks and Indian cottons, French wallpapers from Nobilis and Follot, furniture by Knoll, Herman Miller and Cassina, lighting from Flos and Iittala.

  • Marion Hall Best: Interiors is on at the Hazelhurst Regional Gallery And Arts Centre, 782 Kingsway, Gymea from June 30 until August 19.