Upholstered seating objects are familiar to us all as more or less constant companions of everyday life. Upholstery is cosy, it conveys security and promises comfort, it has a specific design, asserts or creates status and tells story(s). We give little thought to their inner life. Yet a glimpse into the hidden interior of chairs and armchairs is a journey into secrets, into laced and sprung constructions that turn out to be unknown masterpieces of craftsmanship. “OBSESS. The Secret Art of Upholstery” traces the furniture and its inner life, conveys sensual and playful interesting facts, invites comparative test sitting and shows why upholstery is always also part of a cultural and social history.
Image Above: Courtesy of GRASSI Museum für Angewandte Kunst
The exhibition “BESESSEN. The Secret Art of Upholstery” brings together more than 100 pieces of upholstered furniture from the past 400 years, from the Renaissance chair to the council armchair of the early 17th century, from the first fitness device Chamber Horse of the late 18th century to the admired design object and experiments of recent decades. The upholstered furniture of outstanding designers corresponds with vivid models, textiles, film and picture documents that trace the history of the development of upholstery. The exhibits on display provide an exclusive insight into normally hidden upholstery technology and the work of outstanding masters.
The exhibits come from the museum’s own collection, the Löffler Collection in Reichenschwand and from other museum and private lenders. Members of the Restorers in the Crafts e.V., Interior Decorator Crafts Department, Schloss Raesfeld, are intensively involved.
Structure of the exhibition
The exhibition consists of three sections. It begins with a thematic introduction to the secret world of upholstery with the help of outstanding upholstered furniture that shows the change of views, fashions, techniques and materials. The second area, which is reached via a darkened sound tunnel, promises sensual experiences. Here, the sounds of work and use can be heard, and craftsmanship can be experienced acoustically. The path continues into a large activity room. Here visitors can try out various upholstered chairs that do not come from museum collections. Feeling, touching and sitting are not only allowed, but encouraged.
How do you sit on a flat cushion, sprung or unsprung? How on foam in the low cocktail chair or in the sprawling salon furniture? Finally, the visitors arrive at the Orangerie, where once again curiosity is in the foreground. Here, the question of our demands, fashions and preferences determines the selection of exhibits. Important upholstered chairs of the 20th century from the Löffler Collection are on display.
On the one hand, the exhibition reveals the secrets of the inner life of upholstered seating furniture and, on the other, focuses on the upholstery trade itself. A profession that combines tradition with progress and the future and has always been characterised by a high degree of sustainability. At least when, in addition to comfort, ergonomic seating and formal validity, a long lifespan is strived for and ecologically safe materials are used.
Over 70 objects from the museum’s own textile collection also provide an overview of 500 years of upholstery fabrics and trimmings as an important component of upholstered furniture. The majority of these textile objects, including ornately crafted Italian works from the 17th century, are being presented to the public for the first time…
In the exhibition “BESESSEN. The Secret Art of Upholstery” shows more than 100 pieces of upholstered furniture. Among them are 20th-century seating objects by such renowned designers as. Alvar Aalto, Eero Aarnio, Ron Arad, the Archizoom group, Liisi Beckmann, Peter Behrens, Richard Blumer, Osvaldo Borsani, Fritz August Breuhaus de Groot, Joe Colombo, Erich Dieckmann, Donato D’ Urbino, Georges de Feure, Jindřich Halabala, Josef Hoffmann, Paolo Lomazzi, Anton Lorenz, Giovanni de Lucchi, Louis Majorelle, Roberto Sebastian Matta, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Olivier Mourgue, Renate Müller, Marc Newson, Gionatan De Pas, Gaetano Pesce, Heinz and Bodo Rasch, Richard Riemerschmid, Eero Saarinen, Titi Sarcino, Charles Siclis, Margarete Steiff, the Studio 65 collective, Kem Weber and Hans J. Wegner.
A publication in German/English will accompany the exhibition. Special events are planned.
GRASSI Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Johannisplatz 5-11, 04103 Leipzig
Friday, 24. November 2022 until Sunday, 26. March 2023
Opening of the exhibition: Wednesday, 23 November 2022
Press conference: Tuesday, 22 NOvember 2022, 11 a.m.
Free for under 18s, adults €8, concessions €5.50 and €4 respectively.