Columbia Museum of Art announces The Art of Seating. 200 Years of American Design

The Columbia Museum of Art presents its major summer exhibition, The Art of Seating: 200 Years of American Design, on view beginning Saturday, April 28 through Sunday, August 26, 2012.

“This is the first comprehensive exhibition of American chair design in the history of the Museum and illustrates the Museum’s commitment to presenting the many creative aspects of design,” executive director, Karen Brosius, said. “This is such a rare opportunity to see iconic American chairs in such a wide variety of styles. We are delighted that American art collector Diane Jacobsen is generously sharing her extensive and significant collection with our visitors.”

“Easy Edges” Line Designed by Frank Gehry Manufactured by Easy Edges, Inc. High Stool, 1971 Photo by Michael Koryta

Most chairs encountered throughout the day define themselves fairly simply—a place at the family table, a comfortable spot with a great view of the river, a seat of corporate power. When looking at the 44 chairs in The Art of Seating, however, there is much more to see than simple pieces of furniture. These works of art have compelling stories to tell about our national history, the evolution of American design and incredible artistry and craftsmanship.

The Art of Seating provides audiences with a unique opportunity to see chair types that usually reside in private homes, not usually on public display. The American Chair Collection, the focus of this exhibition, is a private collection of iconic and historic chairs reaching back from the early-1800s to pieces from today’s studio movement. The exhibition provides an opportunity to see readily recognizable pieces alongside those rarely seen by the public.

The collector, Diane D. Jacobsen, didn’t plan to have a collection of chairs, but as she began acquiring more, she says she became enamored with chairs. “It was the sculptural quality, the innovation, the design and the fact that these were truly American,” Jacobsen said. “I’m thrilled to share with residents and visitors to South Carolina the cultural, social, political and economic history of America as seen through these chairs.”

Presenting sponsors for the Columbia presentation are: Verve Ford Boyd Interiors, BMW of Columbia, Hannah and Ron Rogers and Columbia Marriott. The supporting sponsors are the Pierrine and Hootie Johnson Fund of the Central Carolina Community Foundation and Carla and Dibble Manning. The education sponsor is Colonial Life.

Organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Jacksonville, The Art of Seating takes the viewer into the design studio through patent drawings, documented upholstery, artist renderings and multimedia presentations. Selections from the Jacobsen Collection of American Art offer a stylistic journey in furniture with showstoppers by John Henry Belter, George Hunzinger, the Herter Brothers, the Stickley Brothers, Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, Isamu Noguchi, Frank Gehry, and others. The exhibition also features contemporary and historic designs by some of the biggest manufacturers such as Knoll, Herman Miller and Steelcase.

Perhaps the most illustrious piece of history in this collection is that of the House of Representatives Chamber Arm Chair from 1857. Designed by Thomas U. Walter, architect of the Capitol from 1851 to 1865, the House of Representatives chairs were created to be used in the halls of Congress and were showcased in portraits of political leaders such as Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. Another presidential-related chair by David Wolcott Kendall, deemed by his peers as “The Dean of American Furniture Design,” was presented to President William McKinley during his term in the White House and has become known as the “McKinley” armchair.

The exhibition originated at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Jacksonville, FL and won three prestigious Gold Addy Awards for its exhibition design and marketing campaign. Tour dates include: Figge Art Museum, Davenport, IA (June 11, 2011—September 4, 2011); Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, AL (September 22, 2011—January 15, 2012); Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Greensburg, PA (February 5, 2012—April 8, 2012); Columbia Museum of Art, SC (April 27, 2012—August 26, 2012); Academy Art Museum, Easton, MD (November 29, 2012—January 2013); Royal Alberta Museum, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada (June 15, 2013—October 6, 2013); Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, LA (January 17, 2014—April 11, 2014) and the Reading Public Museum, Reading, PA (May 31, 2014 – July 27, 2014).

The Art of Seating is developed by the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, in collaboration with the Jacobsen Collection of American Art, and is organized for tour by International Arts & Artists, Washington, D.C.

Columbia Museum of Art
PO Box 2068 Columbia, SC 29202
1515 Main Street

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