At a time when design is enjoying unprecedented popularity with the public, A Century of Chairs offers an engaging and informative opportunity to trace the history of modern design through the evaluation of one object- the chair. The exhibition features a collection of 75 classic chairs from the Design Museum Collection- each of which illustrates a landmark in aesthetics, functionality, materials, production technology or sustainability.
No object tells the history of modern design more eloquently than the chair. From Michael Thonet’s mass-manufacturing of bentwood chairs in the late 19th century and Marcel Breuer’s pioneering use of tubular steel at the Bauhaus in the late 1920s, to Charles and Ray Eames’ plywood innovations in the 1940s, the pop-inspired plastic chairs of Verner Panton and Joe Colombo in the 1960s and recent advances by contemporary designers such as Jasper Morrison and the Bourroulec brothers, the chair remains a focus of experimentation for designers.
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Collection and interpretation
Past and Future Venues
The Design Museum, 2003 Design Centre, Barnsley, 2004 Cartwright Hall, Bradford, 2008 The Civic, Barnsley, 2010 Cheongju International Craft Biennale, 2011 Storey Gallery, Lancaster, 2012 Sewerby Hall, Yorkshire, 2015 ADAM Brussels Design Museum, 26 March - 29 August 2021
Some of the chairs in this exhibition are extraordinarily flamboyant, such as Charles and Ray Eames’ spectacular La Chaise, first designed in 1948 but not produced until decades later, or the Crown Chair welded by Tom Dixon in his London workshop during the late 1980s. Other chairs are remarkable examples of technological innovation: notably Marcel Breuer’s 1925-1927 Wassily, which was one of the first chairs to be made from tubular metal, and pioneering plastic chairs from Verner Panton’s sensual 1960 Panton Chair to the equally innovative Air Chair developed by Jasper Morrison as recently as 1999.