Have a Seat!
The Beylerian Collection of
June 28 – October 28, 2007
Pretenders and Promoters: Although many believe that early small chairs were salesman’s samples and the work of apprentices, documentation supporting this notion is minimal. The contemporary furniture industry, however, has created its own version of sample chairs in the form of advertising or promotional miniatures, such as the “Patio Chaise Lounge,” that faithfully reproduce (and remind us of) their products.
Americana: Many small chairs date back to the 19th century when models were required with every submission to the U.S Patent office. The “Adirondack Chair” is based on a style popular in the late nineteenth century.
Outdoor, Twigs and Logs: At the turn of the twentieth century, paralleling the Arts and Crafts movement was a back-to-nature movement which included “rustic” furniture made out of unfinished branches and logs. The miniature versions are, of course, made out of twigs.
Transformed Chairs: Humble scraps such as the wires from champagne corks, cigarette wrappers, tin cans and clothespins are the materials of traditional folk art chairs. More recent variations suggest that small chairs can be made of just about anything. The possibilities range from the durable – stones, circuit boards, scouring pads, bottle caps – to the most ephemeral, wheat straw. Those made of cutlery, a bagel, even a hotdog and its bun are witty metaphors of function. Recycling and the use of “green” materials are frequently found in these transformations.
Flights of Fantasy: Artist and Designer Chairs: Chairs are rich in cultural and aesthetic connotations, and, as such, appeal to artists who design and make seats of major and minor proportions. At the small scale, artists explore a wide range of meanings and symbols linked to the concept of the chair.
Small Comforts: In the late 17th century, furniture design changed dramatically with the growing use of fabric and upholstery. Elegantly carved and painted chairs had always been signs for status and wealth; now, late in the history of furniture, comfort was added to the expectations of the chair. By the next century, easy chairs, padded and capacious were part of every well-appointed drawing room. The invention of the coiled metal spring in the 19th century further enhanced the comfort level. The modernist “Lounge Chair” and the “Art Deco Chair” demonstrate the definition of comfort for two different historical styles.
Basic and Classic: Miniature versions of classic furniture styles are prized by collectors. It is possible to document the historical evolution of the chair at this convenient scale. The explosion of design variations in the 20th century added greatly to the number of models to be acquired. Examples in the exhibition range from a 17th century carved chair to 20th century icons by Josef Hoffmann, Gerrit Rietveld, Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
Seats of Power: The history of the chair – an elevated seat equipped with back and arms – cannot be separated from the history of power and status. Thrones for rulers are known as early as the Babylonian period but the Egyptians may have made some the first true chairs. These early forms were exclusive, used by a select few, lifting a chosen one above the masses gathered below. Rich ornamentation, fine woods and dramatic scale reinforced the status of gods and kings alike. A glittering example is King Tut’s throne, made as a promotional chair for the 1978 exhibition.