The mudac is honoured to host one of the largest private collections of artist, designer and architect chairs in the world. This collection, initiated in the 1990s, is full of original seating designs and its owner, Thierry Barbier-Mueller, has taken the step of presenting it to the public after more than 20 years of confidential passion.
The variations and tempos have captivated Thierry Barbier-Mueller’s attention for this evident and necessary functional object. Faced with such a rich and diversified corpus, and in order to give each chair its own specificity, famous American director Robert Wilson was asked to design immersive and exceptional scenography, borrowed from the repertoire of performing arts. Through him, the mudac exhibition reads like an immense opera in several scenes. The semantic vocabulary shifts, the producer in the person of the collector makes the corpus available, and the director makes a selection and directs the actors/chairs in stage sets and atmospheres where sound and light amplify the dramaturgy of the narrative. mudac thus gets to offer a brand-new piece of theatre with its first major exhibition on its 1500 m2 stage, in the heart of the Plateforme 10 arts district.
A Chair and You presents this object in four acts in scenic situations that reveal the history of design from the 1960s to the present day.
Scenography by Robert Wilson
To underline the sculptural character of the elements of the Thierry Barbier-Mueller collection, the great American director and artist Robert Wilson was entrusted with the scenography. This exceptional scenography plunges the public into immersive worlds where the chairs are treated as the protagonists of a performing arts show. Sound, light and sets provide a unique way to discover the iconic design object that is the chair and its many variations.
An opera in four acts
Islands made up of a dense network of the most colourful and eclectic chairs in the collection give visitors the illusion of getting lost in a dense forest. Bright colours, surprising materials, and curves predominate in a space bathed in light. The chairs have been intuitively grouped by family and grouped around themes such as animality, duality, sculptural aspect, pop, humour, or engineering.
Calm, minimalism and geometry characterise the Medium Space. Straight, clean lines divide this monochrome landscape. The layout of the room, a series of tulles splitting the translucent set, is inspired by the architecture of Mies van der Rohe’s German pavilion. The open, soothing space is in dialogue with chairs that have strong architectural features. The soft, diffuse light contrasts with a metallic sound environment.
Through a lowered, backlit door, dazzled visitors enter a dark and hushed room. As if floating in the darkness, the chairs are revealed in turn by changing lights that give the seats a star-like aura. As if in a planetarium, our gaze is guided by the projectors to observe the most significant chairs in the collection.
The last space remains closed—a cube lined with mirrors serves as a showcase for the objects. Circular openings in the facades reveal the sculptural and metallic qualities of the chairs, which literally melt into this reflective environment. The changing light intensifies the kaleidoscopic effect.
The Thierry Barbier-Mueller Collection
In the 1990s, Thierry Barbier-Mueller was fascinated by the creativity, freshness and tremendous explosion of spontaneity of designers such as Ron Arad, Tom Dixon and André Dubreuil. His acquisitions grew spontaneously as he met and discovered new designers until they became a fully-fledged collection of more than six hundred and fifty chairs from the 1960s to the present day. The collection includes works by international designers such as Ettore Sottsass, Pol Quadens, Shiro Kuramata and Maarten Baas, as well as visual artists such as Donald Judd, Niki de Saint Phalle, Lawrence Weiner and Franz West.
Consisting of about two-thirds unique pieces, prototypes or works from small, limited editions, the collection reflects this interest in atypical objects, outside the usual niches of industrial design. Barbier-Mueller is above all fascinated in the object itself, its uniqueness and plasticity, the humour it evokes or its materiality.
Susanne Hilpert Stuber
Barbier-Mueller Museum Foundation :