The Art of Seating: 200 Years of American Design

September 16, 2023 - April 14, 2024

Mint Museum Uptown

About

The Art of Seating: 200 Years of American Design, drawn from the rich holdings of the Thomas H. and Diane DeMell Jacobsen Ph.D. Foundation provides a rare opportunity to survey the history of American craftsmanship and ingenuity, seen through the lens of seating furniture. Featuring many of the most iconic designs and designers from the past two centuries, The Art of Seating encourages visitors to reconsider objects that are a ubiquitous and often overlooked part of our everyday lives, seeing chairs as not just functional objects, but as works of art in their own right. At the same time, the objects in the exhibition also have stories to tell about the history of our country, ranging from the contributions of immigrants to changing tastes in style and aesthetics to new innovations in technology and materials.  

More than 50 examples of seating furniture from the Thomas H. and Diane DeMell Jacobsen Ph.D. Foundation are included in the exhibition and offer a stylistic journey from the early 1800s to the twenty-first century. Noted makers and designers include John Henry Belter, George Hunzinger, the Herter Brothers, the Stickley Brothers, Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, Isamu Noguchi, Frank Gehry, and Vivian Beer. The exhibition also features contemporary and historic designs by some of the biggest manufacturers to commission these pieces, such as Knoll, Herman Miller and Steelcase.  

The exhibition was originally developed by the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville and then toured to more than two dozen museums by International Arts & Artists, Washington, D.C. It will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue of the collection, produced by The Thomas H. and Diane DeMell Jacobsen Ph.D. Foundation and D. Giles Ltd. The installation will also include a video in which Dr. Jacobsen discusses the collection.  

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After you read the story of each chair, my hope is that you, too, will appreciate chairs as much as I do.

– Diane Jacobsen

Thank you to our presenting sponsor

The Art of Seating: 200 Years of American Design is generously presented by PNC Bank. Additional individual support is kindly provided by Mary and Walt Beaver, Sarah G. Cooper, Lucy and Hooper Hardison, and Kati and Chris Small.

Thank you to our media partners

Exhibition Keepsake

A fascinating survey of exceptional American chair design from the early nineteenth century to the present day. Designed for function, each chair has a story to tell about the history and evolution of American design, art and craftsmanship. At the heart of the catalogue is the presentation of 57 chairs from the Jacobsen Collection of American Art covered in 49 essays, all showing beauty and historical context, as well as important social, economic, political and cultural influences. Highlights include designs by John Henry Belter, George Hunzinger, Herter Brothers, Stickley Brothers, Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, Isamu Noguchi, and Frank Gehry, among others. There are good examples of historically significant chairs, such as the House of Representatives Chamber Arm Chair (1857), and a photograph of this chair being sat in by Abraham Lincoln, plus an Appalachian Bent Willow Armchair, which is shown in a 1901 photo being sat in by President McKinley on the porch of his summer home. Key icons from post-war American history include Charles Eames’ 1946 moulded plywood Low/Lounge Wood Chair, and the Contour Bar Stool designed by Frank Gehry in 1972.

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