June 10, 2011

The Barcelona Chair

Archival photo of Barcelona chairs in S.R. Crown Hall from Lifemagazine (Frank Scherschel, 1956; Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images).

The Mies van der Rohe society recently celebrated the 125th birthday of Architect Mies van der Rohe with exhibitions, speakers and events. As part of the festivities, Michael Jefferson of Wright auction house presented a history of the Barcelona chair and offered perspective on Mies furniture at auction. Watch this video of Michael’s presentation on this classic design icon, and learn how to tell a the difference between an authentic Mies, and a knock-off. Michael reviews elements of material, construction and proportion to look for.  The talk includes some interesting details about the chairs development as well as appraised values found at auction.

There may not be another singular expression of Mies’ aesthetic than the Barcelona Chair. Designed for the Barcelona Pavilion in 1928, it is built upon a scissor chair structure. The form is composed of a stationary curve and elongated X. The catelievered seat only became possible with modern technologies and materials.

For the pavilion, only two examples of the chair were built. They were made of bolted and chrome plated construction supporting ivory colored pig skin cushions. The video of Michael’s presentation address’ the change in development and refinement of the chair over the years through various manufacturers. The Barcelona chair has been in constant production since 1929, and is still available today.

The Barcelona chair is “pure construction and materiality, is a chair free of ornamentation and symbolic of an era of new progress in the 20th century.  Michael Jefferson



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