The Object Portraits:
A Solid Foundation
The history of modern design can be told through its chairs. These ubiquitous elements not only ground people to their environments but also are among the first and most enduring reflections of technical breakthroughs, material advancements, aesthetic trends, and cultural shifts. They set the tone for a space, build the base of a home, and are worthy of close observation.
“A chair is a very difficult object,” said Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.“A skyscraper is almost easier. That is why Chippendale is famous.” Mies met the challenge with seats such as his iconic Barcelona lounge, and to this day, few architects and designers can resist trying to distill an entire design philosophy into an object made to sustain an intimate, functional dialogue with a single person.
This selection of object portraits reveals the distinctive silhouettes of four striking chairs (or chair-like elements) alongside the details that often go unnoticed: the fine finish of a curved plywood base, the otherworldly clash of organic materials, the subtle mix of metal forms selected with practical, load-bearing concerns in mind. Presented in the same light-filled loft space, the unique traits of each object shine through.
“When I first started developing this process nearly ten years ago, I did a tabletop and used brightly colored resin. It just wasn’t right somehow. It took a long time to finally figure out what I wanted—to make it look like a quartz crystal. And to this day, people ask me, ‘Is this how it grows on the tree?’ Because it looks so organic, so natural. I often joke that in Indonesia, we have crystal hanging off the trees! Obviously not, but it does look like that, because of the depth of a piece like this.”–Andrianna Shamaris
Self-taught French architect and furniture maker Jean Prouvé advised would-be visionaries,“Never design anything that cannot be made.” Innovative and idealistic yet staunchly practical, the early modernist described himself as a “design engineer.” He drew upon a formative apprenticeship with master blacksmiths in Paris to create his metal furniture and other objects intended for mass production.