In December of last year, the Centraal Museum was able to purchase the Prototype Low Chair (center) by Gerrit Rietveld’s at a Sotheby’s auction. The iron chair, which dates to c.1946-1950/52, was an experimentation by Rietveld in working with metal, using some of the techniques he had worked out in his usual use of molded plywood. Although the chairs go for large prices these days, they, like the designs by Ray and Charles Eames, were meant to be affordable through easy construction.
The Low Chair was one of a series of chairs that Rietveld exhibited in Denmark in the early years after World War II, and it was this exhibition that led to the overall design of the chairs being known as Danish chairs. The technical drawings for the Low Chair suggest that it was intended to be massproduced, but in the end, that particular design was not manufactured. However, the Danish chairs (the two flanking chairs in the photo) were produced.
The Prototype Low Chair was recently put on display at the Centraal Museum, and having read the news stories about the purchase, it was nice to get to see the chair in person. It’s on display in a small room often dedicated to one or two individual Rietveld pieces.
However, there’s another room in the museum, the Van Baaren Zaal (Van Baaren Gallery), which features additional examples of Rietveld’s furniture designs. Amid the paintings in the room, which were collected by the Van Baaren family, the museum has placed examples of some of Rietveld’s furniture. The simple, modern shapes form an interesting contrast to the often traditional paintings in the collection. Take for instance, two variations of Rietveld’s Zigzag Chair that sit amid portraits and florals.Other pieces currently on display include a sideboard/buffet piece that I am particularly fond of and would love to own a reproduction of someday. There are also additional chairs, and even a child’s wagon on display. Although only a small sampling of Rietveld’s work, it’s a nice selection of pieces.
The Prototype Low Chair is on display until 13 April 2014. You can see all of the pieces in situ in this video from the Centraal Museum (in Dutch).