In celebration of Museum of Applied Art’s Day (founded on November 6, 1950) we are presenting exhibition „Chairs: Centuries of Style”, dedicated to individual seating furniture, without which today it would be hard to imagine various, individual or collective, public or private activities.
The author of the exhibition, Marija Bujuć, conceived, together with her collaborators, an attractive exhibition in which the exhibits greet and invite museum visitors, in an original way, to a journey through the centuries of presence of chair as the queen of interiors.
In their everyday activities, human beings experience numerous situations in which they sit: at homes, working places, streets, parks, in vehicles, waiting rooms, theaters, schools, public and private gatherings. The first association brought by the term „to sit” is chair, but also its neighbouring typological groups for individual (armchair, stool, tabouret...) or collective sitting (bench, canape, sofa, couch). The contemporary way of living offers innumerable possibilities for more or less comfortable sitting. We perform this activity without thinking about whether it has always been this way. Tens of thousands of years were needed to shape an object, which is used for one seemingly very simple activity.
In the exhibition and in the accompanying catalogue, only a part of the collection of seating furniture of the Department for Period Furniture and Wood of Museum of Applied Art is shown, with 63 catalogue items and 80 objects (chairs, recliners, armchairs and tabourets). The oldest object in the collection, the so called Dante Chair, dates from the 16th century, and the youngest from the first decade of the 20th, was designed by Dragutin Inkiostri Medenjak. At about the same time, in 1908, a chair by Hans Gunter Reinstein (1880–1938) was conceived, and it anticipated the development of seating furniture of the centuries to come. With the exception of two items, the collection is entirely of Central European and Western European provenance. The oldest featured exhibit comes from the century that marks the moment of accepance of the rights of all to have their own kinds of chairs, while the youngest one is the representative of the moment in which this right became an everyday reality.
In order to comprehend the overall evolution of chair and its varieties, the author of the exhibition Marija Bujić provided a concise historic development, in the text in the catalogue, from the ancient civilizations to the modern era, accentuating the important periods, countries, styles and individuals who influenced its construction and shaping. This overview affirms the fact that seating furniture represents very important typological group of furniture in general, in which were reflected, apart from stylistic characteristics, the phases of rise and fall of civilizations, states and historic personalities.
For those stylistic epochs that could not be illustrated with photographs from the Museum’s collections, drawings by Mrs Mirjana Vojnović, MA, were used in the catalogue, as convincing illustrations of the seating furniture of the past, and around one hundred of them feature as an accompanying exhibition of the main display.
With their avid professional knowledge, the specialist for the conservation of wood, Milan Andrić and the specialist for conservation of textile, Marija Labudović, helped objects regain their old glow, at least to an extent.
When passing a professional judgment about the stylistic-morphological value of the Collection of Individual Seating of the Department of Period Furniture and Wood of Museum of Applied Art, it is necessary to take into account the “youth” of the Museum and the historic circumstances in today’s Republic of Serbia, from antiquity to the contemporary era. The late economic development, which started only at the end of the 19th century, poor and uneducated citizens, and frequent warfare and destruction, resulted in the lack of commissioners that would inspire acquisition and production of luxury furniture. If we consider all the above mentioned facts objectively, we come to the conclusion that the Museum, during 66 years of its existence, and in spite of the disadvantageous circumstances, created a valuable and important collection of chairs and recliners that give a true image of the ambiance in which they had the function of utility.