A Hundred Years, a Hundred Chairs (百年百張經典椅) is an exhibit with legs: legs made of wood, steel tubing, aluminum, plastic, rattan, metal mesh, cardboard and even felt.
At the Xue Xue Institute until Aug. 21, A Hundred Years, a Hundred Chairs features pieces from the collection of Germany’s Vitra Design Museum, which focuses on furniture and interior design. The show gives design buffs in Taiwan a rare chance to see original chairs by some of Europe and North America’s most influential designers. Pieces in the exhibit were produced between 1898 and 1998 and include creations by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Frank Lloyd Wright, Marcel Breuer, Charles and Ray Eames, Arne Jacobsen, Frank Gehry and Philippe Starck.
On a recent afternoon, visitors kneeled down to examine the construction of an Eames fiberglass rocker from the late 1940s or stood contemplating How High the Moon, an armchair constructed almost entirely from steel mesh by Japanese designer Shiro Kuramata in 1986.
“Even if you don’t have a lot of money, a few chairs can really bring out the look of your home,” says Yili Ho (何怡俐), the director of exhibits at the Xue Xue Institute. “It doesn’t just appeal to people who are interested in interior design. Chairs also encompass industrial design and engineering.”
The exhibition has traveled to 12 countries and is carefully curated to give viewers a sense of how social, cultural and economic changes influence furniture design, Ho says.
“We wanted people to be able to see all the chairs at once and let them take their time examining the chairs up close,” she says of the exhibit’s open layout, which is arranged into nine sections by era and style.
WHAT: A Hundred Years, a Hundred Chairs (百年百張經典椅)
WHEN: Open daily from 10:30am to 8:30pm. Until Aug. 21
WHERE: Xue Xue Institute (學學文創展坊), 7F, 207, Tiding Blvd Sec 2, Taipei City (台北市堤頂大道二段207號7樓), tel: 0800-068-089
ON THE NET: www.xuexue.tw
ADMISSION: General admission is NT$200, student tickets are NT$100
The first section focuses on wooden chairs built between 1898 and 1918, including an office chair created by Wright for the Larkin Administration Building in Buffalo, New York, and the adjustable-backed Sitzmaschine, which Josef Hoffman designed for patients at Vienna’s Sanatorium Purkersdorf.
Modular design and the then-revolutionary use of steel tubing in furniture construction are highlighted in the next section, which features several chairs by Bauhaus designers Marcel Breuer and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Gerrit Rietveld’s Zig Zag chair, which is made from just four pieces of wood held together by dovetail joints, accompanies other designs created in the decade leading up to World War II.
The next three sections examine the evolution of furniture styles after the war, when designers like the Eames brothers and Hans Wegner made simple but striking furniture with materials like molded plywood and fiberglass. As the economy improved, more luxurious creations began appearing, like the famous Eames lounge chair and ottoman, built from molded plywood and upholstered in black leather.
In the 1960s, pop art by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein showed its influence in playful pieces such as Eero Aarnio’s spherical Ball and Pastille chairs and Studio 65’s 1970 Bocca Sofa, which is also known as the “Marilyn Monroe sofa” for its resemblance to the movie star’s bright red lips. During the 1980s, designers like Javier Mariscal, Ron Arad and Andre Dubreuil sought to break down the boundaries between furniture and fine art with more conceptual creations.
“The chairs created during this time were more diverse in style. Designers were less concerned with ergonomics and usability than with deconstructing ideas about furniture design,” Ho says.