A brief history of the Italian anonymous chair by Altek Italia Design
Curator: Antonio Larosa
Curator: Antonio Larosa
When you hear about a chair exhibition, the first thing that may come to mind may be images of the flashy, glamorous chairs seen in many high-end, glossy-paged design magazines. Many of these pieces of furniture are intended to be beautiful to the eyes, however, often they are uncomfortable to sit in which renders many of them better-suited to be on display in museums rather than being of practical use in our living and work spaces.
The “anonymous chair” exhibition moves the spotlight to shine, on the common, ordinary chairs, often the creation of an anonymous designer, the simple, seemingly “un-designed” products that we have been using all our lives. We recognize these “workhorse” chairs from our grade school classrooms, neighborhood cafes, bars, churches, and workplace break rooms, yet we often fail to acknowledge their simple, stylistic beauty as it often fades into the work-a-day settings where we use these objects. Like most things we take for granted, we are often pleasantly surprised when we take a step back and spend a moment to really look at their lines, their designs, their forms, and their functions – the design elements that we hope to encourage you to properly consider in this exhibition. After viewing this exhibition, we hope to transform your impressions of these common chairs from being ordinary to being extraordinary.
The exhibition includes a fascinating historical review made possible thanks to the Altek company, an important chair manufacturer in the Veneto region of Italy. Though now a thoroughly modern company, Altek has historical ties to the furniture industry, since the owners (Franco and Silvia Baggio) realized and appreciated the value and timeless beauty in some of the pieces they found around the old factory of their father and before that of their grandfather and great grandfather. We present day consumers and designers are fortunate that Altek had the foresight to preserve and continue to provide these products for us.
A limited number of the chairs originally manufactured by the “Baggio Vittorio & Figli” Company were selected for this exhibition. The center stage of the exhibition could only be occupied by the classic “rustic chair”, better known in Italy as the “Paesana chair”. Close by, we explore several other classics, including the folding beach chair “Delizia” covered by a patent and introduced during the economic boom in Italy during the late 50’s and is still in popular use world-wide today. Appropriately neighboring the center stage are some of the chairs we grew up with in our own homes, schools, businesses, and many of our churches.
We conclude this brief though significant view of the history of the Italian ordinary chairs with a glimpse into the future of these beloved, practical pieces of furniture. Looking forward, we show our continued respect and appreciation of these Italian classics by introducing you to several modern-day versions of these timeless favorites. For example, the exact shape and proportions that are the heart and soul of the Paesana chair are respectfully updated in “Kore”, a new, stronger, modern, aluminum edition destined to continue the world-renowned success story and workhorse status it inherited from its predecessor.
We believe the history of the common chair will be much like the history of Italy itself – full of rich, classic, important stories from the past and promising to fill future decades with many extraordinary memories. We hope that after you attend the Exhibition you share our passion for these fundamental founding members of the furniture realm. And when you leave, may you take with you a new, or renewed, admiration and appreciation for the functionality, beauty, simple elegance, and continuing story of these furniture classics.