What have Balancing Tools to do with Chairs?

Balancing Tools

What have balancing tools to do with chairs?

Balancing Tools

Balancing Tools is a large scale object of art by

Claes Oldenburg (Klahss Old-en-burg) bio:
Claes Oldenburg was born January 28, 1929, in Stockholm, Sweden, but spent most of his childhood in the United States. After studies at Yale University and the Art Institute of Chicago, he moved to New York City in 1956, where he established himself in the early 1960s with a series of installations and performances influenced by his surroundings on the Lower East Side.
Oldenburg’s initial interest in constructing environments such as The Street (1960), The Store (1961), and Bedroom Ensemble (1963) soon evolved into a concentration on single sculptures. Using ordinary, everyday objects as his form of expression, he went on to develop “soft” sculpture and fantastic proposals for civic monuments. In 1969, Oldenburg took up fabrication on a large scale with Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks, which became a controversial focus for student protest when it was installed on the Yale campus, followed in 1976 by Clothespin for downtown Philadelphia. Since 1976 he has worked in partnership with Coosje van Bruggen. Together they have executed over forty Large-Scale Projects, which have been inserted into various urban surroundings in Europe, Asia, and the United States. Their most recent work is the 144-foot-long, 64-foot-high Cupid’s Span for Rincon Park on the Embarcadero in San Francisco.

Coosje van Bruggen (Koh-shuh vahn Bruh-guhn) bio:
Born in Groningen, the Netherlands, on June 6, 1942, Coosje van Bruggen received a master’s degree in art history from the University of Groningen. From 1967 to 1971 she worked in the curatorial department of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and was co-editor of the catalogue of Sonsbeek 71, an exhibition of contemporary sculpture held in Park Sonsbeek, Arnhem, and other sites throughout the Netherlands. Van Bruggen was a member of the selection committee for Documenta 7 in Kassel, Germany (1982); a contributor to Artforum (1983-88); and Senior Critic in the Department of Sculpture at Yale University School of Art (1996-97). She has also authored books on Claes Oldenburg’s early work and on John Baldessari, Hanne Darboven, Bruce Nauman, and the architect Frank O. Gehry, among others. Van Bruggen’s first collaboration with Claes Oldenburg was in 1976, when Trowel I, originally shown at Sonsbeek 71, was rebuilt and relocated in the sculpture garden of the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, the Netherlands. In 1978 van Bruggen moved to New York, where she continued to work with Oldenburg to establish direct contact with a wider audience by creating large-scale, site-specific works in urban settings. Their collaboration has extended to smaller-scale park and garden sculptures as well as to indoor installations.

and chairs?

Balancing Tools was commissioned by German chair manufacturer Vitra International AG. On the photo you see the sculpture against a background of the Vitra Design museum by Canadian Architect Frank Gehry. Vitra itself explains it as follows:

Following a major fire which destroyed a large part of the factory in the 80ies, British architect Nicholas Grimshaw was commissioned to build a new factory hall. His high-tech architecture was considered to be in keeping with the vision of Vitra as an enterprise synonymous with technical excellence. After completing the building, Grimshaw was commissioned to develop a masterplan for the entire site.

This idea of a “Corporate Identity Architecture” was, however, called into question by the “Balancing Tools” sculpture by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen.

“Balancing Tools” triggered off an entirely new architectural concept: Vitra decided to have the buildings on its site on a range of contrasting styles. It commissioned new buildings from different architects, each responsible for a specific need. Vitra’s architectural philosophy is aimed at countering the desolate dreariness associated with traditional trading estates.

I hope the answer is clear:
Two artists / designers (one of whom is a Dutch Lady) make a venerable Chair Manufacturer rethink his policy regarding who to commission as architects for the design of the buildings on its site.
This story makes it clear how much influence design can have.
Finally i would like to add that Het Stedelijk Museum of Amsterdam (Amsterdam Municipal Museum) has a large collection of designer chairs. It even published a book about its collection. So Coosje will know of that collection although her area of interest seems more focused on sculpture.

Contemporary Rietveld Utrecht Chair at Christie’s

Rietveld Utrecht Chair

Photo thanks to Christie’s
Italian manufacurer Cassina claims:

Advertising announcement appeared in the “Corriere della Sera” published on 16th March 1972: The text quotes:

“Cassina S.p.A. announces that it has purchased the exclusive reproduction rights for all furniture and objects by Rietveld and by his heirs, resident in Amsterdam. Gerrit T. Rietveld is one of the most significant members of the ”DE STIJL”, the artistic movement born in Holland around 1920 which has given this century ‘s greatest Dutch contribution to figurative art, architecture and design. His work has deeply influenced the european artistic language by setting an original syntax of forms, materials and space”.

This advertising announcement was the crowning point of the complex but pleasant negotiations between Cassina – or more precisely, the Cassina family – and the Rietveld family who were represented at the time by the oldest daughter, Elisabeth, who was assisted by her husband, Dr. Eskes.

The agreement for the purchase of the reproduction rights was consequently signed by the two parties at the Eskes-Rietveld home in Amsterdam, in September 1971, and it is still in force. The necessary consultancy for the initial reconstruction work of the two pieces of furniture under production, the Zig-Zag chair and Red and Blue armchair, in addition to the graphic design of communication instruments, was supplied by Daniele Baroni. The first prototypes were realized at Cassina’s Centro Ricerche e Sviluppo together with G.A. van de Groenekan, Rietveld’s close collaborator. This permitted an interesting comparison between the original construction techniques and the technological know-how of Cassina’s wood craftsmen.

The construction method was later enriched, with Filippo Alison’s help, from the comparison between two different cultures, both of which are involved in the realization of the same objective: the realization, using present day materials and technologies, of design ideas dating back to 1927 through 1935.

The production of the Utrecht model, armchair and sofa designed in 1935, has been started in 1988, to celebrate the centenary of Rietveld’s birth.

Two of these chairs were in auction at Christie’s Amsterdam today.

I am a bit confused as these chair seems very much the same design as th Metz & Co desing of my prior post.

Luckily the firm Design Matcher which has its seat in The Hague (where I live) sheds some light here:

The Utrecht chair was Rietveld’s first upholstered furniture design. Probably he made the chair because the customers of Metz & Co and his own private principals had a need for easy chairs.
The chair was presented by Metz & Co for the first time in the flyer of 1937 with the number R.31 and was lined up in the show house ‘the new home’ in 1937 in The Hague (nr. 267). A 3-seater could be supplied based on this model. After the war the chair was again taken in production by Metz. In a flyer of Metz from 1963 an arm chair, 2-seater and a 3-seater are offered with woolen upholster. The round version, which now is made by Cassina has never been produced by Metz (design date 1936, produced from 1986).

They also point out Rietveld’s clever design idea of the 90 degree angle between the seat and the back and the 90 degree angle between the arm rests and the front legs.

Last edited by gje on October 17, 2010 at 12:18 AM