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Three cheers for Italian chairs

by Elena Guarneri last modified 2008-06-20 15:11

Sitting comfortably? Let's try out some of Italy's most famous chairs...

Three cheers for Italian chairsItaly, long known for its design prowess, has begun to look further afield for inspiration. At least this is the case of Poltrona Frau, the prestigious chair manufacturer from Tolentino in the Marches, which has recently bought over Thonet, the legendary Austrian furniture-maker, founded in 1819 and official supplier to the Austrian court.

More than a chair
Enzo Mari the renowned designer and twice winner of the 'Compasso d'Oro' (once in 1979 for his 'Delfina' chair (produced by Driade) and then in 1987 for ‘Tonietta’ (produced by Zanotta) - attributes Thonet's success to its simplicity of design - Thonet chairs never try to be anything but chairs. Indeed it is no coincidence that of all Italy's fine designers it is Mari - the craftsman and conscience of Italian design -.who describes Thonet's production as ingenious. As it is no coincidence that Thonet himself was a carpenter before he became a successful businessman.

Trends and markets
Italian creativity has been put to the test and asked to modernise its production and move away from more traditional styles.
Quite a challenge given the current downturn in the market and a general reluctance on the part of buyers to invest in 'superfluous' goods. This recession was also evident at Promosedia , the International Chair Exhibition recently held in Udine - Udine is the centre of an industrial district which produces 44 million chairs each year, totalling some 30% of world-wide and 80% of Italian production - where a distinct slow down was evident after 15 years of constant growth.
Italy is still the market leader in furniture and design but competition from Asian manufacturers could bring about a change in the future. New markets such as Australia, New Zealand and Eastern Europe are opening up alongside the more traditional outlets of Germany, France and the US. Innovation, technology, marketing and communication are all key words for Italian companies to stay ahead of the game.

Chair art
Chairs as works of art and design are the focus of an unusual exhibition in the Civici Musei del Castello, in Udine. The show, aptly named Chairs in Contemporary Art runs until January 6th and brings together 60 essential works including models by Warhol, Sol LeWitt and Bruce Nauman. Key pieces are Andy Warhol's Electric chair and Ingeborg Lyscher cigarette stub chair a metaphor for human experience.

read our article on Stokke
Milan showcases Italian design
Driade and Starck - a match made in design heaven - - The company's official website - - Furniture in bentwood from Thonet to Antonio Volpe
Promosedia - - A world of chairs at the International Chair Exhibition

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