Artist/ Designer: Hans Hollein
b. 1934 Vienna, Austria
Title: Schwarzenberg, 1981
Medium: Birdseye maple veneer, gold leaf, lacquer
Dimensions: 32" h x 63" x 18.5"
Details: All of the Memphis furniture was whimsically named after international hotels, and Hollein's sideboard was appropriately named for a grand hotel in Vienna. This example travelled with the Memphis exhibition to all venues from Memphis, Tennessee to the Cooper Hewitt in New York City. It was also displayed in the Grace Designs showroom and has remained in our founders collection. It is in truly remarkable condition despite its travels over the last thirty-plus years. There are some scratches and chips in the lacquered base, and some areas of imperfection in the veneer (although many were there from the beginning). The gold leaf is still bright and shiny but displays some areas where the surface has oxidized and darkened. This is a very early example, and the screws and bracket fasteners used to attach the legs were refined in later versions. Due to this fastener arrangement, the top moves slightly where the rounded bottom of the top comes together with the top of the round leg. One of the first fifteen made (our records show Number 11) and an important museum quality icon designed by Pritzer Prize awarded architect, Hans Hollein.
Notes from the Archive: The original 1981 Memphis collection included a number of works which immediately became icons of the New Design movement. Sottsass' Casablanca and Carlton bookcases, with their startling patterned laminates come to mind, as well as Shire's brightly lacquered triangular Brazil table, and the major Tawaranga Boxing Ring bed by Umeda. Other amazing designs were included by design masters, Kuramata, Isozaki, and Branzi, all with unconventional materials and forms. But there were two works that garnered icon status for their use of traditional materials, making their forms alone tell their story. This included the Michael Graves' Plaza Dressing Table and Hollein's Schwarzenberg Sideboard. Both used a natural veneer and more formal postmodern references to new design, yet could not have been part of any other collection. These were grand statements made using quieter forms - not shouting but whispering. They made a gracious nod to furniture of the past, but asserted their vision of future design. Among the vivid and confrontational object for which Memphis became famous, this is subtly elegant and emblematic of the mission of its members. It is remarkable that much of the first Memphis collection was designed independently- Isozaki, Hollein, Graves, and Kuramata did not know what the Italian group was imagining, yet produced works with precisely the same contagious energy and view toward the future. The Schwarzenberg is a timeless and emblematic example of the best of Memphis, and seems just as relevant today as the day it was first exhibited.
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