The German town of Boppard sits on two of the most pronounced and prominent curves on the Mittelrhein.

Can it be a coincidence that Boppard’s most famous son, Michael Thonet, is most popularly known for his curving bentwood chairs?

Can it really be a coincidence?

Possibly. Almost certainly.

What is less contentious is that the flow and meandering of first Michael Thonet’s creativity and vigour and subsequently that of the company Thonet has carved its mark not only on the Rhenish Massif furniture design and on understandings of furniture, but also the furniture industry, from production to sales and distribution.

With the exhibition Thonet & Design the Neue Sammlung Munich embark on a voyage along some 200 years of Thonet design (hi)story.

Thonet & Design, Die Neue Sammlung - The Design Museum, Munich

While the shortlist of exhibitions for this column is regularly long, that for May 2019 was particularly so.

And particularly tricky. Perusing it we saw no realistic chance of getting it down to five, all made good claims for inclusion, none deserved to be ignored……

Then we noticed that, with a little bit tweaking, we could get two lists: one featuring those exhibitions directly connected with Bauhaus/Inter-War architecture and design, and one featuring those less directly connected.

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The Bauhaus/Inter-War architecture and design list will follow, but for all keen to explore architecture and design in a wider context, five new exhibitions opening in May 2019 in Munich, New York, Berlin, Basel & Villingen-Schwenningen, you may like to consider visiting……..

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for May 2019

“I first saw resilient tubular steel furniture designed by Professor Mies van der Rohe in September 1927 at the exhibition “Samt und Seide” in Berlin, objects which made a very deep impression on me, because I felt and saw that here, for the first time, was a meaningful way to utilise the forces inherent in tubular steel.” Anton Lorenz, 27th March 19391

Because discussions on the steel tube furniture that, in many regards, characterises the inter-War period tend to focus on the designers and architects, it can be all too easily forgotten that without those who identified the potential, those who not only understood the significance of the new developments of the period, but had the requisite skills to bring the ideas of a, relatively, small group of creatives to the market, steel tube furniture may not today enjoy the fascination and following that it does.

Certainly wouldn’t stand as characteristic of the inter-War period.

Amongst those who played a leading a role in such developments was the Hungarian born designer and entrepreneur Anton Lorenz. With the exhibition From Avant-Garde to Industry the Vitra Design Museum Schaudepot not only explain Anton Lorenz’s role in the development of inter-War furniture, but also his post-War contributions to an, apparently, contradictory furniture genre……

Anton Lorenz: From Avant-Garde to Industry, Vitra Design Museum Schaudepot, Weil am Rhein

On December 10th 1869 Gebrüder Thonet voluntarily relinquished their 1856 Privilege in respect of “The manufacture of chairs and table legs made of bent wood, the bending facilitated by the action of steam or simmering liquids”; thereby ending not only a thirteen year monopoly during which time Thonet became a firmly established global brand, but also the culmination of a neigh on three decade story which highlights the importance of patent protection in the furniture industry.

Biegen oder Brechen. Michael Thonet (1796 - 1871)

It’s probably fair to say that no object at IMM Cologne 2018 confused us quite as much as the new 118 chair by Sebastian Herkner for Thonet.

Not in bad way. Just in a confused way.

We know, we know, what sort of being gets confused by chairs.

Us. Regularly. It’s why our lives’ are such a mess.

118 by Sebastian Herkner for Thonet, as seen at IMM Cologne 2018

The exhibition Divine Golden Ingenious. The Golden Ratio as a Theory of Everything? at the Museum for Communication Berlin featured two projects by Berlin based designer Mark Braun, projects which, largely, if not exclusively, owe their form to deliberations on and experimentation with the Fibonacci number. A state of affairs, we considered, makes Mark Braun an ideal person with whom to speak to about the role, attraction and relevance of the Fibonacci number and Golden Ratio in product design.

And so ahead of the exhibition’s opening at the Museum for Communication Frankfurt, we did just that…..

Les Trois by Mark Braun

As a fair IMM Cologne 2017 didn’t impress, but one or the other product did. Our IMM Cologne 2017 High Five!! And a few words of comfort from Epictetus.

IMM Cologne

The German architect and designer Ferdinand Kramer didn’t just translate the new principles of construction and design which arose in the inter-war years into his architecture, furniture and industrial designs, he was also a very eloquent writer on such matters, and thus helped, and continues to help, explain the motivations behind, and fascination with, functionalist ideals.

The Kramer Principle Design for Variable Use Museum Angewandte Kunst Frankfurt am Main Chair B 403 Thonet

S32 by Marcel Breuer for Thonet (Artistic Copyright since 1932, Mart Stam)

“…the strict, logical lines which avoid anything unnecessary and which with the sleekest form and through the simplest means embodies

Ulisse Daybed by Konstantin Grcic for ClassiCon, as seen at Milan Furniture Fair 2016

To the casual observer selecting five outstanding products from the Milan Furniture Fair is a neigh on impossible task, so

Vis-a-vis by Glen Oliver Löw & Antonio Citterio for Vitra

Born in Leverkusen Glen Oliver Löw initially studied Industrial Design at the University of Wuppertal before moving to Milan in

KUULA by Uli Budde for Thonet & Oligo, as seen at IMM Cologne

In the famous Thonet Card Catalogue from 1930/31 the image of the B 9 side table and B 25 lounge

Thonet @ IMM Cologne 2016

As we noted in our post from the 2015 Garden Unique Youngstars competition, the contemporary outdoor furniture market is a

Normally October is all about design festivals, October 2015 wasn’t. On the one hand we weren’t at that many this

January being what it is we spent most of the month in Cologne attending the 2015 IMM Cologne Furniture Fair

Unfold by Uli Budde for A.E. Koechert, Vienna

We were first introduced to the work of Berlin based designer Uli Budde when we saw his “Reading Table” project

thonet 214 chair 14 Michael Thonet

“The essence of the Thonetschen invention is that when bending a steamed piece of wood the neutral layer is relocated

The 360° Stool by Konstantin Grcic for Magis (2009) and the Nelson Perch by George Nelson through Vitra (1964)

On March 10th 2015 a jury at the Central District Court of California in Los Angeles concluded that Pharrell Williams

Programme S 830 by Emilia Becker for Thonet, as seen at Milan Furniture Fair 2015

Back in the hazy mists of 2014 the Grassi Museum for Applied Arts, Leipzig presented Sitting – Lying – Swinging.

IMM Cologne 2015 Thonet relax

If you’re of a certain age, and of a certain background, you’ll be familiar with the Roland TR-808 drum machine.

As all old thesauruans know “April” is merely a synonym for “Milan” And lo despite all promises to the contrary

According to our pictorial review of March 2013 it was “a month of travelling: Stuttgart, Chemnitz, Weimar, Dessau….. its amazing

Thonet Orgatec Köln S 160 S 170 S 180 Delphin Design

For just about as long as Thonet have been producing furniture one of the company’s most important designers has been

smow thonet wagenfeld promotion

“When”, we asked in context of the Grassi Leipzig exhibition Sitting – Lying – Swinging. Furniture from Thonet, “does an exhibition

1875 Swivel Ofiice Chair by Gebrüder Thonet Vienna Grassi Leipzig

By way of a 1st of May, International Workers’ Day, special…… in Milan Ronan Bouroullec told us that the brother’s