Masterpieces of Furniture Design

Past Exhibition

This exhibition is presented in partnership with the Vitra Design Museum, featuring more than 50 iconic pieces that span 200 years of design.

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Drawn from the renowned Vitra Design Museum collection, the exhibition will present a comprehensive selection of modern furniture, including original works by leading designers such as Alvar Aalto, Le Corbusier, Charles and Ray Eames, Charlotte Perriand and Virgil Abloh.

The exhibition is accompanied by the encyclopaedic Atlas of Furniture Design, the most comprehensive book on furniture design ever published.

More about the Exhibition

Furniture is closer to us than most other objects in our lives. It is an everyday companion, and is present everywhere around us: at home, at work, and in public spaces. Furniture reflects social change and innovation and can sometimes refer to symbolisms that are as old as human civilisation, such as a throne as the symbol of power or a table as the epitome of hospitality. From solving technical and constructive challenges to creating beauty and inspiration in our everyday environments, furniture illustrates what design is all about.

The Vitra Design Museum owns one of the most complete collections of furniture design, comprising more than 7,000 pieces from the past 200 years. Masterpieces of Furniture Design highlights key objects from this collection. Featuring iconic design classics as well as lesser-known works, it sets a special focus on expanding the canon of design by calling attention to female designers and non-Western creators. All objects shown here are early original versions – some of them prototypes or one-offs – that reflect the initial design idea behind each piece. With chairs being the most prominent pieces of furniture due to their complex structures and rich cultural history, they represent the majority of designs on display.

The exhibits are grouped according to 7 principles that can define excellence in design – from design’s close ties to art to its potential at reaching socially or ecologically sustainable solutions. An archival section in the centre of the room features prototypes, material samples, drawings, posters, and other documents from the Vitra Design Museum’s records that provide background information about the inspirations and design processes behind the exhibits. The large-scale images on the walls depict the works in the historical setting for which they were created or in which they were presented for the first time.

About the Curator

Dr Mateo Kries (b. 1974) joined the Vitra Design Museum in 1995, working first as a curator, then as manager of the museum’s branch in Berlin, where he co-founded the DESIGNMAI festival, before moving on to become Chief Curator in 2006 and Director in 2011.

Dr Kries has been responsible for numerous exhibitions and has published extensively, with books on leading figures in design and architecture, historical design movements and innovations in non-Western countries. Many of his publications address the social, political and theoretical aspects of design, including the influential book Total Design (2010), which examines its role in contemporary society. Dr Kries is co-editor of the Atlas of Furniture Design (2019).

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