Stedelijk exhibition reviews 125 years of furniture design

125 years of furniture design

The Stedelijk exhibition includes (from left to right) Michael Thonet, couch Nr. 4 (variation on Café Daum-furniture), 1849-1850, prod. Gebrüder Thonet, Vienna; Marcel Wanders, Sparkling, 2010, prod. Magis, Torre di Mosto (Italy); Richard Hutten, Stedelijk-chair (prototype), 2008, prod. Lensvelt, Breda (Netherlands); Vally Wieselthier, vase, 1927, prod. Wiener Werkstätte, Vienna; Ettore Sottsass, table Park Lane, 1983, prod. under the supervision of Memphis. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Photografie: Peggy Janssen, styling: Heidi Willems – PURE styling

AMSTERDAM – Starting this summer, the Stedelijk presents an extensive selection of design from its world-class collection. The show features over 300 objects created over the past 125 years – all landmarks of design innovation and excellence. Visitors are invited to explore design history, from a Thonet sofa, one of the oldest pieces in the collection, to acclaimed designs by the Wiener Werkstätte, the Amsterdam School, Scandinavian design, the advent of plastics in the ’60s, the colorful Italian Memphis designs of the ’80s, and the successful school of Dutch design, which emerged in the ’90s.

The show spotlights work by renowned and ground-breaking designers such as Michael Thonet, Gerrit Rietveld, Charlotte Perriand, Verner Panton, Ettore Sottsass, Hella Jongerius, Marcel Wanders and Patrick Jouin. Curator Ingeborg de Roode also chose to include relatively unknown gems by celebrated designers.

“I think it’s exciting to broaden the scope a little, for instance by highlighting other Rietveld chairs, rather than his iconic Red-Blue Chair. Produced during the war from almost a single sheet of material, Rietveld’s Aluminium Chair was incredibly innovative because he intended it to be produced in a different material, in one go, anticipating the potential plastics would offer later. Research reveals that we have the prototype in our collection. And in addition to the well-known Scandinavian design – light, wood, organic forms – I selected atypical, almost baroque pieces, such as an armchair made of sprayed polyurethane foam by Gunnar Aagaard Andersen. It’s a way for us to see design movements we think we know, from an entirely fresh perspective,” said de Roode.

Among the items of furniture, the backbone of the collection, there are relatively few pieces by women designers. Ingeborg de Roode: “That’s why I’m excited that nearly 20 percent of the objects in the exhibit were created by women, such as the amazing graphic work by the Dutch designer Bertha Bake, a chair by Charlotte Perriand from the ’50s, a hobbyhorse by Gloria Caranica and a sofa and matching table by the Danish designer Nanna Ditzel. This also gives us a chance to present a slightly more diverse view of design history.”

The Stedelijk staged its first exhibition devoted to the design of children’s toys and furniture in 1965, in the exhibition Kinderspel (Child’s Play). Since then, children’s design has been a key part of the design collection. The exhibit includes a large gallery dedicated to design for children, with work by Charles & Ray Eames, Victor Vasarely, Enzo Mari and Ineke Hans.

Also highlighted are current topics such as sustainability and the impact of the corona crisis on the Dutch design world. And there’s a treat in store: Visitors may sit on certain pieces of furniture, like Richard Hutten’s Crossing Italy sofa.