Title: Fantasy at the furniture fair
Pages: 58 - 59
Author: Richard Carr
Text: Fantasy at the furniture fair
by Richard Carr
Visiting furniture fairs abroad is nearly always more interesting than visiting our own annual show at Earls Court, not only (of course) because they are abroad, but also because they offer a much wider selection of things to see. February's furniture fair at Cologne, for example, spread over 13 exhibition halls in all. It covered almost every aspect of the furniture trade, from the most expensive individual items (the Scandinavians were showing rosewood and black leather chairs at just under £200 apiece, and a settee in similar material for £250), to three piece suites made in Germany for around £60 complete.
The varied display was made possible by the number of countries taking part. The curious thing was, though, that instead of each country offering a cross section of furniture, it was more inclined to offer furniture of a particular kind, perhaps because it had to have something distinctive to give to the German market. Thus, if very modern or avant garde furniture was what you wanted, you went to the Scandinavians or the Italians, 2; if something less spectacular, but designed in a modern idiom at a reasonable price, the Germans themselves would probably have fitted the bill; the English were there to supply you with reproduction furniture (extremely good for exports); but for even more 'antique' pieces, then it was the Spanish, Mexicans or Americans you wanted. The days of empire may be vanishing fast, but colonial furniture is just the thing.
Naturally, in a brief report on such a fair, one can only cover a small field, and of course it's what is happening in the most modern firms that really interests DESIGN. After visiting Cologne, I can only conclude that what is needed is not a journalist's report, but an analysis by Sigmund Freud. The very latest chair in the fair, Asko's ball chair, 3, designed by Eric Aarnio, envelopes its occupant with womb - like efficiency, and if you don't like being stared at, the chair swivels round and can hide you completely. Also embracing, yet somehow toilet-like (especially when viewed from behind) was Comfort's Elda 1005 chair, 4, designed by Joe Colombo. But neither was so open to analytical interpretation as the entrail - like concoction,1, made by Aagaard Andersen out of polyether and shown on the Danish stand. The polyether is ejected through a nozzle in the form of a thin fluid which in a few seconds effervesces into foam. The result is surrealistic, to say the least. One awaits with bated breath to see what Mr Andersen intends to do next. A bed, perhaps ? That would be ghoulish. The point about all three pieces of furniture is that, using new materials and novel shapes, they are seeking fresh approaches to furniture design. The ball chair, for example, will probably find a limited market, while the use of polyether is the kind of experiment which could revolutionise the whole industry.
Next year's furniture fair at Earls Court will itself be international and, unlike this year's show, open to the general public. The Cologne fair was packed out. If we in Britain could get a fair with only half the number of countries and variety of work represented at Cologne, there is little doubt that Earls Court would be a big draw, too. And it might have some equally revolutionary furniture.
1 The polyether easy chair was designed and made by Aagsard Andersen with the help of the Dansk Polyether Industri A/S. Mr Andersen is now busy continuing his work on this very unusual process of furniture making, using a polyether spraygun. When the chair is finished, the polyether forms a hard skin on the outside but retains its resilience in the form of foam underneath.
2 Bernard Govin's Eliptique chair for Fratelli Saporiti, Italy.
3 Erio Aarnio's ball chair for Asko, Finland.
4 Joe Colombo's Elda 1005 chair for Comfort, Italy.