With the 2020 edition Stockholm Furniture Fair celebrates its 70th birthday.
Grattis på födelsedagen!
We did think about taking along a cake, but knew the halls of Stockholmsmässan would be filled to the rafters with Kanelbullar, as indeed would we.
And so by way of a present, a Stockholm Furniture Fair 2020 High 6!!
As regular readers will be aware, in these dispatches we, very, very occasionally, quietly bemoan a certain monotony at furniture trade fairs, protest that, if you will, we regularly find ourselves wading through an homogenous mass.
On this occasion we will however let someone else make that observation on our behalf.
In his 2015 book Swedish Design: An Ethnography the American anthropologist Keith M. Murphy notes of a visit to the 2006 Stockholm Furniture Fair, “[T]he only problem was, so much of the stuff here looked so similar, and I had a difficult time anchoring myself in the exhibition’s plan”, continuing later that, “[T]he place is predominantly suffused not with a variety of different kinds of objects, but rather with a variety of different objects of the same general kind.”1
So 2006. So 2019.
Though interestingly he does also note that, “one cannot evade the impression that Sweden endures under a tyranny of simple forms and solid bright colours”. These days it’s more solid pastel tones, but…..
Such isn’t exclusive to Stockholm, but can be experienced wherever the furniture industry meet to display their wares. Clearly there are a host of varied, arguably inter-related, causes for such a situation, but here is neither the time nor the space to discuss them; the consequence, however, is that walking through the halls of any give trade fair one finds that while many objects do speak to you, they all tend to do so with a repetition of the same limited vocabularies, often in a very forced, insecure, equivocal manner, and which thus, very quickly, becomes tiresome.
However as Keith M Murphy also notes, “not everything fit [sic] the model” and there are not only always objects to be found with something interesting to say, but which say that in an intelligent, literate and engaging fashion.
And so, and as ever, with the understanding that we have inevitably missed and/or not properly understood several gems, a smow blog Stockholm Furniture Fair 2019 High 5!!
One of the most striking aspects at Stockholm Furniture and Light Fair is the way the various Scandinavian manufacturers try to impress how old they are. Arguably on account of the sheer concentration of Scandinavians at the region’s premier furniture and lighting trade fair, you will rarely find so many in one place at one time, all seem locked in a battle to claim the status as oldest, to lay claim, as it were, to being the elder statesmen of the guild.
Established in 1964 screams one stand. Founded in 1907 another. Since 1869. Etablerad 1724. Constituted in 1079 in the reign of Harald the Soft. Et cetera. Et cetera. Et cetera. Further and further back into the ether of time.
One suspects the reason is that given the relative similarity of the products on display, each is keen to show that they have been doing it longer than the rest.
Yet the question isn’t who has been doing it the longest, but who is doing it best.
Or perhaps better put, elsewhere the question wouldn’t be who has been doing it the longest, but who is doing it best; but we’re talking about the furniture industry, an industry which in its heart has always been about taking inspiration from others. Something which increasingly means a focus on a few universally accepted archetypal “Scandinavian” forms: and not just amongst Scandinavians, we also spotted a few non-Scandinavians trying their utmost to claim a northern heritage.
Which shouldn’t be taken as meaning that all the stands were carbon copies of one another, that all had identical portfolios and nobody was trying new things. Nor that there weren’t objects of merit on show. It doesn’t. Far from it. Such isn’t our intention. Should however be taken as meaning that throughout the fair one is and was regularly greeted by variations on a very small number of basic forms. If you will by the fundamental geometry of understandings of Scandinavian design.
Yet, and much as we argued in our post from IMM Cologne on the 118 by Sebastian Herkner for Thonet, for us things get difficult when the object, the form, becomes the main focus of attention, rather than the thinking, processes and traditions which led to the object, the form, achieving its exalted position. And considerations on such were, for us, too infrequently on display. Or at least drowned out by the shouting
As ever we may have missed things, we’re certainly not claiming totality, not least because our list is by necessity limited, with that in mind, and in no particular order, our Stockholm Furniture and Light Fair 2018 high five! six!
Technically after IMM Cologne we should pack our kit bags and head of to Sweden for Stockholm Furniture & Light
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