SA's Only Antiques, Collectables And Decorative Arts Magazine
Chair-ology

chair“A chair can even be used for sitting on, but with just one condition: that we be uncomfortably seated” - Salvador Dalí

Clyde Terry of The Collector writes that every home should have a collector’s chair. “There is no reason why you should not have an iconic designer chair in your home. There is not one single piece of antique furniture that says as much about the home owner as a chair. In the world of interiors a great chair or set of chairs definitely makes a statement in any room of the house and reflects the style and warmth of any family.

Chairs are as old as history but significant and stately chairs have been around since the Egyptians probably had Cleopatra lying on a chaise-lounge, the Romans had Nero entertaining his subjects with his fiddle in a stately chair, the Greeks’ Plato addressing the crowds from a regal chair and the Chinese emperors carried around in ornate chairs. Every era has its own unique designs that seem to have been copied for many generations.

However nothing is more amazing than the later designer chairs. It is amazingly true that a single chair can tell you so much - with one glance you can get a time and place - so often conjuring up images of grandeur or a place in time that simply put is a time many would rather forget. Whatever your imagery, there is no doubt in my mind that not many pieces of antique or collectable furniture tell the same story that a simple chair can tell. In many instances I can hear a time - appropriate song simply pop into my mind.

My number one chair must be the Dali Leda Chair. For me it evokes elegance and a unique style. First seen in the painting “Femme à la Tête Rose”, this solid brass and polished lead chair is indeed a testament to Salvador Dali. This chair with its high-heeled shoes for feet and long legs that wrap up and around the back of the chair and the simple hand on the arm of the chair is indeed a Salvador Dali masterpiece.

The Barcelona Chair was exclusively designed for the German Pavilion, that country’s entry for the International Exposition of 1929, which was hosted by Barcelona, Spain. The design was a collaboration between the famous Bauhaus architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and his longtime partner and companion, architect and designer Lilly Reich. Inspired by the campaign and folding chairs of ancient times, it didn’t sell well and only came into its own in 1948 when Knol obtained the production rights. Those who manage to find an early chair will have hit the jackpot as one recently sold for $204 000 by Christie’s.

The 1956 Marshmallow Chair with 18 round cushions that float seamlessly on the frame is one of those chairs where a “pop” song comes to mind and places it right in that realm. Designed by Irving Harper and George Nelson, the design transcended both home and office space. The cushions can be taken off for easy cleaning and interchanged for a new colour range as well. The chair could also be extended for a lobby space. Both playful and functional this is a chair that makes a statement in a room. It was reintroduced in 1999 after 34 years.

Verner Panton Chair (1926-1998) had a style that was very 1960’s and many of his designs are still in production today. He created innovative, futuristic furniture mainly in plastics in vibrant colours. He is hailed as one of Denmark’s most influential designers.

chairThe famous Vermelha Chair designed by Fernando and Humberto Campana is a genius in chair design incorporating a steel frame with hand woven and dyed cotton creating a chair that stands in many museums world wide. Incorporating many aspects of weaving, the intertwined threads are then hand-woven into the upholstery creating a red looped rope chair that is far more structured than it appears. The Egg Chair designed by Arne Jacobsen in 1958 is the ultimate in modernist chairs. Originally covered in green fabric it is now available in many different colour ways. It was originally designed for the Radisson SA Hotel in Copenhagen. Said to be based on the “Womb Chair”, the Egg chair is said to be a more complete design. Christie’s recently sold an original Egg Chair for $59,000.

“The Chair collector is an artist in his own way. You can read their soul by looking at their chair collection”

Chairs evolved yet again with the arrival of Art Deco with manufacturing processes permitting designers to shape woods and materials to fit the prevailing aesthetic. Key designers included Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann and Maurice Jallot, who produced chairs upholstered in leather and fine fabric accented by exotic hardwoods.

The Bocca Sofa recognized by many of us as the lips of Marilyn Monroe was designed by Studio 65 for Gufram Italy in 1972 and was indeed based on Marilyns voluptuous lips and was created as a tribute to Dali. However the original sofa dates back to 1936 when it was designed by Salvador Dali and based on the lips of Mae West. The Bocca Sofa graces the foyer of the Sanderson, London. Designed by Phillippe Starke his work can be seen in the permanent collections of New York’s MoMA, Paris’ Louvre, Milan’s Permanent Design Collection and Denver’s Museum of Modern Art.

Another 19th-century style of note was Biedermeier of Germany. Biedermeier chairs combined the klismos-style legs of the ancient Greeks with mahogany veneers and caned seats. It was also the century of Thonet, whose bentwood furniture designs have changed little in the 150 years since they were first introduced, and Stickley, whose Mission Oak chairs were a hallmark of the budding Arts and Crafts movement that greeted the 20th century.

A Chair is still a chair even if there is no one sitting there but so often we still can see the person who enjoyed it the most. COLLECTING TIPS: rarity, condition and history of the chair will all contribute towards the value.

Story from The Collector Issue 18

 

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