Thonet & Design

Exhibition at Pinakothek der Moderne, Die Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum, Munich

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Thonet & Design
02/08/2019 - To mark the 200th anniversary of the company Thonet, Die Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum has invited Munich-based product designer Steffen Kehrle to stage a new exhibition of Thonet furniture
 
With more than 400 objects in its possession, Die Neue Sammlung boasts one of the world’s largest and most important collections of Thonet furniture, one that therefore not only reflects the development of seating furniture but also, and in particular, represents an important chapter in European company history. 
View into the exhibition “Thonet & Design”. Photo: Die Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum (A. Laurenzo)

View into the exhibition “Thonet & Design”. Photo: Die Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum (A. Laurenzo)

The exhibition does not only highlight Thonet’s pioneering work in the field of the development of bentwood and tubular-steel furniture, it also spotlights the designs since the second half of the 20th century and emphasizes the more recent designs. 
View into the exhibition “Thonet & Design”. Photo: Die Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum (A. Laurenzo)

View into the exhibition “Thonet & Design”. Photo: Die Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum (A. Laurenzo)

For the exhibition design, Kehrle is planned a clear, bright space that provides viewers with an unobstructed line of vision and allow for a matter-of-fact presentation of the objects. 

200 years of Thonet
Chair Nr. 1, by Michael Thonet / Peter Hubert Desvignes, 1849; Chair Nr. 14., by Michael Thonet, 1856. Photos: A. Laurenzo

Chair Nr. 1, by Michael Thonet / Peter Hubert Desvignes, 1849; Chair Nr. 14., by Michael Thonet, 1856. Photos: A. Laurenzo

Michael Thonet (1796-1871) was a trailblazer in the field of bentwood furniture. A master joiner who hailed from Boppard in the Rhineland, Thonet set lasting standards in shaping the age of machines and industry. Whilst his competitors were imitating historic designs with the aid of lathes and slicing machines, Thonet chose an entirely new path. He came up with a fundamentally modern repertoire of shapes using the new opportunities afforded by the technology and production technology that he had developed himself. Thonet put into practice a future-oriented principle – shape as the result of industrial methods of production. 
Chair Nr. 13, 1860; Folding Chair Nr. 6310, 1870; both Gebrüder Thonet. Photos: A. Laurenzo

Chair Nr. 13, 1860; Folding Chair Nr. 6310, 1870; both Gebrüder Thonet. Photos: A. Laurenzo

Thonet’s outstanding achievement was a process that bent wood, initially in veneer bundles and later in the form of slabs of solid beech wood, into curved shapes, under the action of steam and pressure – a process that was ideally suited for mass production. Another innovation was that the individual parts were no longer glued but now screwed together. This meant that the chairs could be shipped in pieces. Thirty-six of the No. 14 chairs fitted into one crate with a volume of one cubic meter, for example. This farsighted business strategy and distribution policy transformed the firm Thonet into a unique phenomenon. Comprehensive catalogs were published almost yearly and Thonet exported throughout the world. By World War I, more than 1,400 different models had come on the market. Despite the wealth of different models many of the furniture items used standardized elements; this standardization and mass production made for affordable prices. The concept was extremely successful – by 1910, over 50 million of the famous “consumer chair” No. 14 had been sold. 
Cantilever chair B 33, by Marcel Breuer / Mart Stam, 1927/28; Cantilever chair B 33, by Marcel Breuer / Mart Stam, year 1928/29. Photos: A. Laurenzo

Cantilever chair B 33, by Marcel Breuer / Mart Stam, 1927/28; Cantilever chair B 33, by Marcel Breuer / Mart Stam, year 1928/29. Photos: A. Laurenzo

With the advent of tubular-steel furniture in the late 1920s the ascendancy of bentwood furniture initially came to an end, but in this new sector too Thonet was able to manufacture successfully. In the 1930s the company was the world’s largest producer of tubular-steel furniture, some of which was designed by famous exponents of the Bauhaus such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Marcel Breuer. This furniture represents a renunciation of decoration, an unadorned formal vocabulary whose clarity focuses on the practicality of the object. The simplicity of the pieces’ rectilinear structures highlights their functionality, their ergonomics and their economy. Rejecting the forms adopted by the Wilhelminian style and by the Jugendstil, and with their stylistic vocabulary shaped by industry, the chairs stand for a new era and an approach that aimed to change society in a positive way. 
Chair ST 664, by Eddie Harlis, 1954; Cantilever Chair Nr. 275, by Verner Panton, 1956. Photos: A. Laurenzo

Chair ST 664, by Eddie Harlis, 1954; Cantilever Chair Nr. 275, by Verner Panton, 1956. Photos: A. Laurenzo

The period beginning from the second half of the 20th century, when the company established a new home in Frankenberg, Germany, was characterized by designers such as Eddie Harlis and Verner Panton and, in more recent times, by Norman Foster, Konstantin Grcic, Stefan Diez and Sebastian Herkner. 
Chair 404, by Stefan Diez, 2007; Cantilever Chair Muji, by Konstantin Grcic, 2008. Photos: A. Laurenzo

Chair 404, by Stefan Diez, 2007; Cantilever Chair Muji, by Konstantin Grcic, 2008. Photos: A. Laurenzo

The exhibition is accompanied by a publication by Koenig Books, designed by Bureau Borsche.

Exhibition Thonet & Design

Venue: Die Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich 
Duration: May 16, 2019 – February 2, 2020
Prices: Regular  10 €, reduced 7 €, Sunday admission 1 € 
Opening hours: Daily 10:00 – 18:00, MON closed, THU 10:00 – 20:00  
More information here: www.dnstdm.de

THONET on Archiproducts
Thonet Classics, 200 Years Thonet

Thonet Classics, 200 Years Thonet

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