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Vitra Design Museum: "Seats of Power" (ph: Luca Zanier)

| Designbest editorial staff


hroughout the ages, chairs have often stood as symbols of power and they are now put on display at the Vitra Design Museum. The 20 piece-strong exhibition Seats of Power illustrates the way in which chairs have changed throughout the years and their close connection with the social, political and economic power of the time.   

This historic relationship has continued in time: you have to remember that up to the eighteenth century chairs were only for the wealthy and it’s only with the establishment of the middle classes and the subsequent mass-production of goods during the industrial era that chairs have gone from being a privilege enjoyed by the few to a commodity for everyone.

In fact, at one side we have formal, authoritarian chairs such as the Chaise de Garde by Jean-Joseph Chapuis (commissioned by Napoleon in 1802) and the papal throne constructed for John Paul the Second's visit to Zagreb in 1994. At the other we have the representatives of democratic design such as JH501 by Hans J. Wegner on which Nixon and Kennedy sat during their debate in 1960 and the ladylike  East River Chair by the designer Hella Jongerius on which Angela Merkel and Ivana Trump sat during the Women20 Summit in Berlin.

This exhibition couldn’t be complete without the most iconic pieces of contemporary design history such as the Lounge Chair No 670 designed by Charles Ray Eames in 1956, the timeless Egg Chair by Arne Jacobsen designed in 1958, Elda Chair a padded throne designed by Joe Colombo in 1960 as well as the DIY chair by Enzo Mari (1974) that has subsequently become a symbol for immigrant integration thanks to Cucula, a group that in 2015 decided to have the chair made by refugees in a workshop in Berlin.

These 20 pieces illustrate the cultural evolution of chairs that went from being a symbol of patriarchy and power to a means of participatory communication.


Where: Vitra Design Museum, Shaudepot, Weil am Rhein (Germany)

When: until 17 Febrary 2019


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