What can chairs reveal to us about our history?
There are sure to be seats in the new Objectspace exhibition and book The Chair: A story of design and making in Aotearoa that’ll cause you warm bodily pricks of memory. Be it Marilyn Sainty’s 1988 postmodern 'Cocktail Chair' - featuring a milking machine hose - the enfolding 'Kura Kōwhatu' chair from 1991 by Carin Wilton from the old Wellington City Library, or the ubiquitous timber and steel Furnware school chairs that have been with us since the 1940s.
The Chair is a history of the past 170 years through 110 chairs, created by 83 intrepid designers. And, as this project’s subtitle suggests, it’s also a dynamic story of the way design has responded to cultural and economic changes and taken creative opportunities in Aotearoa New Zealand.
First and last in the exhibition is a chair that was a product of necessity. The earliest chair here is made from whale vertebrae by a whaler needing something to sit on. Yet it’s also the newest chair in the show - too fragile to be on display, a 2023 replica was made using 3D printing technologies.
Every object is a holder of stories and on 24 February, Objectspace’s gallery in Ponsonby, T`amaki Makaurau will host its own version of the infamous TV series Antiques Roadshow, featuring a panel of experts with “a series of interesting furniture finds and (even more) chairs”.
Curator of this impressive project is Objectspace’s director Kim Paton. Since she joined the gallery in 2015, she has led its development of an impressive new building in Ponsonby, and partnerships that has seen Objectspace open new gallery spaces in Ōtautahi Christchurch, and also engage with communities seldom engaged with by our museums. Paton has also expanded Objectspace’s reach in considering architecture as part of its mission as a national organisation considering our craft and design culture.
Kim Paton joins Mark Amery on RNZ’s Culture 101.