“Fin de Siècle” Exhibition

Swiss Institute Contemporary Art

poster for “Fin de Siècle” Exhibition

This event has ended.

Swiss Institute announces the inaugural edition of its Annual Design Series, an exhibition curated by renowned Greek-Norwegian architect Andreas Angelidakis entitled Fin de Siècle. A curatorial homage to Eugène Ionesco’s 1952 absurdist play “The Chairs,” the exhibition will include an eclectic array of late 20th century design pieces sourced from museum and private collections. Presented in an immersive mise-en-scène, this unique selection of chairs resonates with the drama of Ionesco’s tragic farce, 20 years after the celebrated avant-garde playwright’s passing.

In “The Chairs,” an elderly couple recounts the demise of civilization to a stage full of empty chairs. Absent of any sitters, the audience is left to imagine the invisible figures that the increasingly incoherent Old Man and Old Woman address. In Fin de Siècle, the chairs themselves speak asynchronously, cast as characters and imbued with life. Directed into small vignettes of imagined conversations and actions that transcend periods and design movements, their dialogue echoes the modernist promise fading away.

Curator Andreas Angelidakis writes: “In our current moment of plurality and infinite flux, these objects from the past era of grand movements are juxtaposed with one another. Let us contemplate their inaudible conversations.”

Highlights include seminal innovations in mass production by Marcel Breuer, Le Corbusier, and Armin Wirth; experiments in utopian design by Pierre Jeanneret; imaginative creations that extend reality by H.R. Giger and Alessandro Mendini; and whimsical splashes of color by Robert Venturi and Peter Shire.

At this moment the audience would have in front of them … empty chairs on an empty stage decorated with streamers, littered with useless confetti, which would give an impression of sadness, emptiness and disenchantment such as one finds in a ballroom after a dance; and it would be after this that the chairs, the scenery, the void, would inexplicably come to life … upsetting logic and raising fresh doubts. -Eugène Ionesco

Swiss Institute thanks the lenders to the exhibition, Vitra Design Museum and Dennis Freedman.


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