The Edition

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Robert Wilson creates a kaleidoscopic stage for 140 chairs in Leipzig

May. 30, 2024

Which chair would you prefer? A ‘Hairy’ chair made of a paper fur by Belgian artist Charles Kaisin, or a barbed wired version by Arik Levy? Bruno Munari’s simple, 1945 design, wittily named a ‘Chair for very Brief Visits’, or perhaps Frank Schreiner’s ‘Consumer’s Rest’, made of a cut and folded shopping cart? All these and many more are on display this summer at Leipzig’s Grassi Museum, as part of the ‘A Chair and You’ exhibition.

‘A chair is a chair for one and all! Revolutionary, wacky, innovative, humorous, ironic, joyous, elegant, boring, surprising, spare, mysterious, makeshift, cheeky, brutal, sophisticated, practical, impractical, or straight-out unusable, the character of each piece is understandable to everyone,’ once enthused Thierry Barbier-Mueller, the late Swiss entrepreneur whose private collection is on show here.

Barbier-Mueller started purchasing unique chairs and sculptural prototypes in the 1990s, when he came across eye-catching pieces by the likes of Ron Arad and Tom Dixon. He continued until his untimely death in 2023, amassing over 650 different chairs. Today in Leipzig, visitors can wonder at around 140 chairs by 100 artists from the 1960s to the present day – including a set of ethereal ‘Amadeus’ chairs by American artist, director and designer Robert Wilson, who is also behind the exhibition’s scenography.

Robert Wilson’s scenography for ‘A Chair and You’

A former Wallpaper* Guest Editor, Wilson has been fascinated by the humble chair ever since he received one as a very unusual 11th birthday present. He’s designed quite a few himself since, such as the neon and polycarbonate ‘7 Electric Chairs’, and is also the proud-owner of a 800-strong collection, many of which are found in his Watermill Center in Long Island. He was therefore the perfect man for the job when it came to staging the weird and wonderful pieces found in Barbier-Mueller’s collection.

First presented at Lausanne’s Mudac in 2022 and hopefully touring more museums soon, ‘A Chair and You’ is ‘an opera in four acts’ which plunges the public into immersive worlds in which the chairs are the stars of the show. One ‘stage’, the Kaleidoscope Space, is a mirror-lined cube with circular openings framing sculptural and metallic designs such as Philipp Aduatz’s silver ‘Melting’ chair and Xavier Lust’s folded aluminium ‘Archiduchaise’.

In another, the Dark Space, chairs are revealed in turn by changing lights, while the Medium Space is a minimalist landscape inspired by the formal language of Mies van der Rohe‘s Barcelona Pavilion, and the Bright Space features the boldest, most colourful designs, including Pol Quadens’ bright red Corian ‘Living’ chair.

Among the show many highlights are its poster star, Stefan Wewerka’s ‘Classroom’ chair (1971), with its twisted silhouette that seems to dance; creations by Frank GehryDonald JuddIngo Maurer and Isamu Noguchi; and a bent wood ‘Chair of the Rings’, by Martino Gamper (himself another ‘chair man’ and the designer behind 100 Chairs in a 100 Days).

‘A Chair and You’ is on view until 6 October 2024

Grassi Museum of Applied Arts
Johannisplatz 5–11
04103 Leipzig

grassimak.de

Source: Wallpaper*

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