Figuring Space: Sculpture/Furniture from Mies to Moore
18 January – 31 March 2007
Exhibition in Galleries 1, 2 and 3
Exploring the shared space of modern furniture and modern sculpture.
Both sculpture and furniture represent or reflect the human figure, and create a constant presence - standing, sitting or reclining - in spaces which might otherwise be empty. This exhibition staged confrontations between sculpture and furniture, asking how they each shape their environment, and whether their relationship is complementary, antagonistic or equivalent.
Two major groups of works on paper show how architect and designer Mies van der Rohe continually peopled his spaces with furniture and sculpture. Displayed next to these collages and drawings were some of the actual figurative sculpture Mies chose for his buildings, including works by Lehmbruck, Maillol and Kolbe. These three-dimensional experiences of the spatial encounters implied on paper attempt to ask what sculpture can give to architecture.
Mies’ furniture also featured. His Barcelona Chair, designed for the Pavilion of the same name in 1929, was intended primarily as a seat for the visiting Spanish monarchs as they toured the Barcelona International Exhibition. The piece later became iconic, gaining a significance beyond its primary function. By placing the chair next to Henry Moore’s King and Queen the exhibition compares the ceremonial presence of sculpture and furniture in the same room.
Figuring Space also included signature pieces of now ‘classic’ furniture - by Charles and Ray Eames and Arne Jacobsen - which have come to hold their own in the modern domestic interior as well as in the office. Chairs such as the Lounge Chair and Ottoman and the Egg are designed as much to look at as to sit on, thus edging into the remit of sculpture.
This development can be seen in Eames’ two-part recliners which bear a remarkably close resemblance to Moore’s organic two-part figures. These chairs show how furniture began to replace the figure and assume the shape-making role of sculpture.