Thumb through any home or interiors magazine, and you’ll see how a nice chair can really become a statement piece for a room. But it can also tell an intricate story about necessity and luxury, function and form, the craftsmen who built it and even the history of design itself.
With more than 40 chairs on display—some dating back to the mid-1800s—the LSU Museum of Art is encouraging us to consider where we take a seat with “The Art of Seating: 200 Years of American Design.” The exhibit opens Thursday, March 11, and continues into June in the museum’s gallery space on the fifth floor of the Shaw Center for the Arts.
It couples ornate furniture from the museum’s permanent collection with showstoppers from the Jacobsen Collection of American Art, which features pieces from the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright, Frank Gehry, and Charles and Ray Eames.
Curator Courtney Taylor says the museum was drawn to hosting the touring exhibit because of how it illustrated the crossroads of art and domestic American life. Prominent designers reimagined the humble chair with new shapes, lines and upholstery; advances in mass production brought popular designs into the average home; and later, people were drawn back to the personal, handmade touch of individual furniture makers.
“A lot of times you think of art as something separate from everyday life. A chair is something very much lived in,” Taylor says. “But at the same time you have all those design elements in there, and it’s charged with all the social movements happening when it was produced. It’s all intertwined.”
The museum is hosting several virtual events in conjunction with the exhibit:
MARCH 14: Virtual gallery talk
Curator Courtney Taylor and Dr. Bridget May, an LSU School of Interior Design instructor, discuss the pieces in the exhibit and their influences. Sunday, March 14, 2 p.m.
MARCH 24: ‘Contemporary Makers’
A virtual talk features LSU Museum of Art educator Grant Benoit and contemporary makers Eleanor Campbell Richards and Aspen Golann speaking about their chair designs and personal studios. Wednesday, March 24, 4:30 p.m.
APRIL 11: ‘My Favorite Chair’
In this virtual talk, local designers, collectors and furniture enthusiasts discuss their own collections and unique furniture designs. Sunday, April 11, 2 p.m.
APRIL 29: Designer studio visit
A virtual studio tour with local maker Damien Mitchell. Known for his leather goods, Mitchell will talk about his workspace and his recent work in chair design. Thursday, April 29. 5:30 p.m.
Register and find out more about these virtual events and “The Art of Seating” at lsumoa.org.