cover of book

by Anne Massey
Reaktion Books, 2011
Paper: 978-1-86189-758-9 | eISBN: 978-1-78023-249-2


The chair—you’re likely sitting in one right now. Yet, despite its common presence in offices, restaurants, and homes, we very rarely stop to think about the origins of the chair and its place in culture. After all, the human body is actually more suited to sitting on the ground than on a chair; and as a result, chairs often cause back problems. Nonetheless, in Western culture, as Anne Massey explains, the chair is an object that marks our place in the modern world.

Massey explores how, particularly in the last hundred years, the chair has become a revered object of design. Certain chairs have become iconic—like the Eames Lounge chair and Verner Panton’s S Chair, which are photographed, exhibited in art museums, and slavishly copied by cheaper models. Other chairs have reached iconic status simply through their everydayness—think of Van Gogh’s chair or the way Shaker chairs have become emblematic of a simpler and purer lifestyle. Massey further examines how chairs have been crafted, from local to global manufacture. In doing so she elucidates the meaning of the chair in contemporary culture, as well as the development, design, and manufacture of this ubiquitous object.

Drawing on design, art, popular culture, and personal experience, Chair is an engaging and informative biography of this everyday object and will appeal to anyone interested in why we choose to sit on the chairs we do.

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