We asked curators of leading twentieth-century and contemporary design collections to discuss one object that they feel is particularly noteworthy. Here is a gallery of their choices.
THE PAPER CHAIR is such a sensual object, with its biomorphic, undulating form and its bold, pulsating pattern. Blurring the lines between sculpture and furniture, art and design, it is a superb example of “form follows function,” as one can sit comfortably, cradled in the womb-like cavity that has been expertly crafted to be strong, yet soft.
Created as a continuation of Bengtsson’s Slice furniture series begun in 1998, the paper version appeals to me most of all as a successful design in which the composition and the material combine to achieve an exceptionally alluring organic object. It is innovative and futuristic, yet has aesthetic parallels in the architecture and objects of several European fin-de-siècle movements, especially the modernisme of Gaudí and his Catalonian contemporaries. I know that Mathias has worked intentionally to get out of the shadow of earlier architecture and design, but this affinity is inescapable.
Made of thousands of sheets of paper glued together in layers, with no screws or fasteners, the chair took an entire month to build. Each layer is in an abstract biomorphic shape; by alternating black and white paper, Bengtsson creates a zebralike pattern that stimulates one’s sense of vision in the manner of op art paintings. As one walks around the chair, it appears to shift before one’s eyes. The familiar parts of a chair morph into undulating curves. Combining inspiration from technology and nature, the Paper Chair resembles a topographic map or a cliff face eroded by wind and water.
Senior Curator of Craft, Design & Fashion
Charlotte, North Carolina