"Mandarin" Armchair Prototype
Today when we think of where inventive contemporary design
is manufactured, we often think of Italy. This, however, was not
always the case. Wide acceptance of modern design came
somewhat later in Italy than elsewhere, perhaps because of the
ever-present conservative influence of the palpable Roman classical past and the slow development of the Italian economy
in the twentieth century. To be sure, before World War II there
were important modern designers in Italy, foremost Gio Ponti,
an architect from Milan whose influence spread beyond his
native country through two architecture and design magazines he
founded, Domus and Stile. And the Fascist regime of Mussolini in
the pre-World War II period did embrace modern architecture,
unlike the Nazi regime in Germany, which consciously rejected
modernism as a source of foreign, moral corruption. It was not,
however, until the post-World War II era, when the Italian economy
expanded rapidly, that Italian modern design achieved international recognition.
One pivotal event made consumers in the United States aware
of the diversity and accomplishments of modern Italian design—the exhibition Italy at Work, which travelled to twelve venues
between 1950 and 1954. The exhibition was initiated by the Art
Institute of Chicago in partnership with two organizations devoted to the promulgation of Italian design, Handicraft Development
Incorporated in the United States and its corresponding institution
in Italy, CADMA. Italy at Work included hundreds of objects by
more than 150 artisans and manufacturers and featured furniture,
ceramics, glass, textiles, metalwork, jewelry, shoes, knit clothing,
and industrial design. The exhibition opened at the Brooklyn
Museum, and at its conclusion, when the objects were dispersed
among the host institutions, the lion’s share, more than two hundred items, came to the Museum.
In the second half of the twentieth century, Italy became a
center for modern design. Many foreigners went there to study
and work at small, adventurous firms that produced high-quality objects.
In 1980, Ettore Sottsass, Jr., one of the senior
Italian designers of the time, founded the Milan design cooperative Memphis with two colleagues, Andrea Branzi and Allesandro
Mendini. Memphis pieces were self-consciously flamboyant riffs on the
postmodern design then in vogue. Although the cooperative lasted
only for five years, its risky exuberance expanded the boundaries
of modern furniture and continues to influence designers today.
Painted wood, polyurethane foam, woven cloth, rubber, painted steel
33 x 25 x 23in. (83.8 x 63.5 x 58.4cm) (show scale)
Gift of Knoll International
Armchair. Polyurethane foam covered with black woven cloth. Painted round profile wood, painted steel and rubber. Padded square seat inset with square curved padded back, raised on four black painted tubular steel legs terminating in black rubber pads. Continuous encircling round profile red-painted wood arms attached below the seat by metal screws and to the chair back by wood pegs. Production models have red tubular metal arms.
CONDITION - The chair is in fine condition. The continuous arms detached from chair back. Proper left arm detached from wooden peg. Proper right: peg and arm detached from chair back. A small split to one arm segment below seat.
This item is not on view
Ettore Sottsass Jr. (Italian, born Austria, 1917-2007). "Mandarin" Armchair Prototype, ca. 1986. Painted wood, polyurethane foam, woven cloth, rubber, painted steel, 33 x 25 x 23in. (83.8 x 63.5 x 58.4cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Knoll International, 1990.86.5. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, CUR.1990.86.5_view1.jpg)
. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2010
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