Sunday, December 27, 2009

Verner Panton

(The photo taken from Excite Ism)

I didn't know who Verner Panton was. But this Danish interior designer is apparently one of the must-know persons in the history of design, and the picture above (used in the flyer for the exhibition held at Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery until today) is intriguing enough for me to decide to visit the Gallery just one hour before the closing time.

Skipping the first section on the biography of Verner Panton and his early works on display (which I think is a bit boring way of introducing the whole exhibition), the corn chairs and other geometrically-shaped chairs catch my eyes:
(The photo taken from Excite Ism)

Using the inverted circular cone as a chair is the idea Panton came up with back in 1958. It is actually a functional idea. A circular cone has a flat surface that can be used as a seat and the cone part can be used as a support for the chair.

This obsession with a chair that doesn't have a standard form culminates into the Panton Chair (the photo to the right, taken from Wikipedia):

This chair is familiar to me because I often have lunch by sitting on this chair at the cafe in my Stockholm workplace. The exhibition tells visitors that Panton invented the concept in 1965. Technology at that time did not allow the concept to materialize in the commercially viable form. Only in the early 1990s, plastic materials became sturdy enough to realize this chair shape durable for a long time. Usually, people whose idea is too advanced are only cherished in history. In the case of Panton, we can appreciate his idea in real time, for example, at the cafe in my workplace.

What really blows my mind, however, is his talent in space design. The exhibition replicates two installations he produced back in 1970. The first is Phantasy Landscape, shown in the picture at the top of this blog entry which does not really tell what this is about. It's a cave-like structure made of foam rubber. Visitors can sit down, lie down, and even sleep. What strikes me is that this space makes people look happy. When I enter into this cave, quite a few people are sitting, chatting, and sleeping. The crowd usually looks a bit annoying and can be intimidating. Here in this cave these people look beautiful. This is an installation that comes to fruition when it interacts with people, a very popular idea for today's art installation. But Panton did this almost 40 years ago.

The second mind-blower is 3-D Carpet "Wave". A huge red carpet that has wave-like humps, which can be used as a chair, a sofa, or a pillow. Visitors sit down and lie down on their back on this carpet to watch a film on Verner Panton on the wall screen. The view of this installation is again a very pleasant experience. People apparently enjoy it. You feel it by looking at their faces. And I myself enjoy chilling on a wave-hump.

Some nightclubs and bars should adopt these two spaces designed by Panton. Actually, some of the other spaces produced by Panton appear to have influenced the design of some nightclubs and bars today. The decor of Cocoon in Frankfurt and Zouk in Singapore, I believe, has some traces of his design, if not intentional.

On the way home, I read a giveaway leaflet for this exhibition. I learn the following behind-the-curtain episode. Directed by the Vitra Design Museum in Germany, the exhibition has been on the world tour since 2000. However, the Tokyo version is curated quite differently from the earlier exhibitions in other countries. While Panton's works were on display chronologically and often in the same room in those earlier exhibitions, Ichiro Katami and Uichi Yamamoto, the directors for the Tokyo exhibition, thought such a way of exhibition wouldn't be effective enough to deliver Panton's pursuit of fantasy space to visitors. Consequently, at Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery, they split the exhibition space into several separated booths each of which represents different philosophies Panton embodied into his works. Plus, the 3-D Carpet replica was made specially for this Tokyo exhibition. In other words, people in other countries who visited this exhibition were unable to experience that happy atmosphere.

Another reason to believe that Tokyo is the world's most interesting city.


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