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Exhibition of vintage furniture designs highlights timeless value

“Tappeto Volante” by Ettore Sottsass (Hwang Dong-hee/The Korea Herald)
“Tappeto Volante” by Ettore Sottsass (Hwang Dong-hee/The Korea Herald)
Over 100 pieces of vintage and antique design furniture are on display at an exhibition called “Our Finest 20th Century Design Collection” at Dongdaemun Design Plaza in central Seoul.

The collection, which embodies the essence of modernity and originality, showcases furniture from the 1920s to the 1960s -- a period considered to be the most dynamic in design history, according to the show’s organizer, the Seoul Design Foundation.

The exhibition includes several rare pieces that are being shown to the Korean public for the first time.

One of them is “Tappeto Volante,” meaning flying carpet, a sofa set designed by Italian architect Ettore Sottsass in 1972. Inspired by travel to India, Sottsass designed the sofa with bold colors and shape. It was produced for only three years in a limited quantity -- there are less than 100 in total.

Another rare piece is Jean Prouve’s “Cite Desk,” which was originally designed to furnish a classroom at Cite University in Nancy, France. The exhibited piece is the actual desk that Prouve made for his daughter, Francois Gauthier.

A prototype red sofa designed by Charles and Ray Eames, which they proposed to Herman Miller Inc. in 1969, is also on display. Only two pieces of this prototype exist, as Herman Miller proceeded with manufacturing a one-person chair version rather than the proposed two-person sofa. The other piece is in the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, Michigan.

Grass-seated chair and ottoman (foreground, left) by George Nakashima (Hwang Dong-hee/The Korea Herald)
Grass-seated chair and ottoman (foreground, left) by George Nakashima (Hwang Dong-hee/The Korea Herald)

Other notable pieces include Pierre Paulin’s “little tulip” (1960s), the first limited edition piece for its design demonstration, and earlier pieces of the Bauhaus collection designed by Marcel Breuer. There is also a grass-seated chair -- which is still in production today -- and an ottoman by George Nakashima from 1944. Also on display are Brazilian designer Percival Lafer’s high-end lounge chairs made of rosewood, which are no longer being made, as trade in rosewood has been regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora since 2017.

“The pieces are prototypes of the furniture that we see and use today,” said a sourcing director at one of the participating furniture galleries. While they are familiar to us today, they are historic considering that it was in the 1950s and the 1960s that new bending and welding techniques were tried, along with the creation of unique designs and shapes, using innovative materials, the director added.

Seven local furniture companies are participating in the exhibition: AndersonC, which mainly deals in mid-century modern American furniture; LeModular, which introduces rare European pieces; Mitdembauhaus, which collects Bauhaus’ original designs; Henry Beguelin, which deals in high-end European masterpieces; Alkov, which focuses on 20th century designs; Aimvilla, which has a strong collection of designs from Brazil and the Czech Republic; and Mimihwa, whose collection features master craftsmanship.

The exhibition runs until Aug. 21. Admission is free.

By Hwang Dong-Hee (hwangdh@heraldcorp.com)
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