According to David Alhadeff, the Future Perfect’s founder, the Chair’s elemental simplicity makes it the perfect canvas for designers and artists; it’s a staple that offers endless potential for experimentation, from the ascetic to the audacious. This concept was the jumping off point for the one-of-a-kind exhibition THE CHAIR, unveiled at The Future Perfect’s New York Gallery during design week. In the words of the late David Bowie “Why bother choosing a certain chair? Because that chair says something about you.”
Any budding aesthete knows instinctively that the chair represents the most sacred meeting of form and function; it’s a piece synonymous with support, the reliable foundation of our everyday lives. And yet the simple chair is in perpetual reinvention mode. It is the unending challenge for the designer and the first thought for the collector, regardless of whether one prefers the humanistic appeal of Nakashima or the cerebral modernism of Le Corbusier.
Reinventing the chair is a singular challenge and one that begs the question: Why?
All photography by Eric Petschek.
“Functional art is the love of my life and the chair is my dream guy. In general chairs are kind of like a dogs. The ugliest creature can be absolutely beautiful in the right space and light if owned and cherished by the right person. My reaction to a good chair is typically defined by uniqueness and is often visceral, I can’t tell you why I love it I just know that I have to have it.”
For generations the function of a chair has remained the same: an object specifically made for seating a person. The history of the chair echoes human evolution and over millennia, this item has symbolized every facet of the zeitgeist, from Napoleonic thrones to the humble plastic school chairs produced in mid century America.
Even though the vast majority of the world’s chairs have been factory made, they remain one of the most difficult items to make and therefore possess the unique ability to express the signature style of an artist. Developments in technology, available materials, form, function, and of course inspiration, have all shaped chair design.
It goes without saying that making simple seem effortless is the Herculean task that only a true creative can face. The Future Perfect Gallery Director Laura Young expresses it in ethereal but relatable terms, “Functional art is the love of my life and the chair is my dream guy. In general chairs are kind of like a dogs. The ugliest creature can be absolutely beautiful in the right space and light if owned and cherished by the right person. My reaction to a good chair is typically defined by uniqueness and is often visceral, I can’t tell you why I love it I just know that I have to have it.”
Notwithstanding its strictures, the chair offers plenty of diversity: open or closed back, finials, leather, metal or wood. Four legs, two or one. Is it glass, as posed by Gaetano Pesce. Porcelain, as Reinaldo Sanguino proclaims. Where does technology come into the equation or does the handmade reign. Why not push the envelope with inflatable plastic as presented by Anti-designers like Quasar Kahn?
For this special exhibition, The Future Perfect decided to answer some of these questions by issuing some 40 artists, industrial designers, ceramicists, sculptors and interior designers with a brief to create a single chair of their own imagination. The final line-up, which range from fully functional examples to pieces of pure art and sculpture, will be one-of-a-kind pieces for sale exclusively through The Future Perfect’s gallery program. The resulting show is ambitious and the results are vital and often surprising. Among the standouts of this expansive survey are Floris Wubben’s pastel green and off white piece cast in ceramic; Chris Wolston’s anthropomorphic Nalgona chair, handcrafted with African wicker; Fernando Mastrangelo’s hauntingly elemental Drift Chair; and Katie Kimmel’s exuberant and smile-inducing Poodle Chair.
In its myriad incarnations, THE CHAIR offers both provocation and reassurance regarding this most quintessential of furniture pieces. “To go through this process and commit to producing a single piece only once moves the process one step further, it’s a labor of love,” explains Young. “We asked each artist to create a single chair that embodied who they are as an artist and maker. The results were and are overwhelming and extremely personal.”
The one-off exhibition includes select interpretations of chairs by the following artists, designers and manufacturers: Ada Blecher, Alex P White, Alex Reed, Ara Thorose, Bari Ziperstein, Bec Brittain, Ben Barber, Bower Studios, Brendan Timmins & Alex Segreti, Brett Douglas Hunter courtesy of Kinder Modern, Charlap Hyman & Herrero, Charles De Lisle, Chen Chen & Kai Williams, Chris Wolston, Christian Woo, Christopher Stuart, David Weeks, Desert Cast, Eric Roinestad, EWE Studio, Fernando Mastrangelo, Floris Wubben, Giancarlo Valle, Jason Koharik, John Hogan, Jorge Penadés, Karl Zahn, Katie Kimmel, Kelly Behun, Kelly Wearstler, Marcin Rusak, Martino Gamper, Nicole Hollis, Omer Arbel, Piet Hein Eek, Pinch, Reinaldo Sanguino, Pinch, Ryosuke Yazaki, Sam Stewart, Serban Ionescu, Seungjin Yang, Tanya Aguiniga courtesy of Volume Gallery, Trueing, Tyler Hays, Vonnegut/Kraft, and Paul Wackers courtesy of Morgan Lehman Gallery.