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Object Timeline

1929

  • Work on this object began.

2000

2019

  • You found it!

Barcelona Chair, 1929

This is a Chair. It was designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. It is dated 1929 and we acquired it in 2000. Its medium is hand-forged steel, hemp. It is a part of the Product Design and Decorative Arts department.

This chair is a prototype for one of the twentieth century’s most iconic modernist furniture designs, Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona chair of 1929. The Barcelona chair is a design of contradictions. Mies, one-time director of the innovative German Bauhaus design school, is a stringent modern designer. The Barcelona chair, however, references ancient x-shaped folding chairs used by Egyptian rulers, Greek gods and mortal rulers, and Roman magistrates. The two chairs designed by Mies and introduced at the Barcelona World’s Fair German Pavilion (from where it received its name) similarly displayed power, as they were used by the Spanish king and queen during an inaugural ceremony. Although this prototype offers an industrial machine aesthetic, the steel was hand-forged, the screw holes hand-drilled, and the hemp straps hand-tied—a labor-intensive process that, together with expensive seat and back cushion upholstery, made the chair unaffordable. Later models were instead made of chrome-plated steel or aluminum. Additional variances in later models include a slightly narrower frame with thinner steel bands and a protruding seat edge over the runners that was later pulled back. In 1948, American manufacturer Knoll began producing the Barcelona chair, and it has since been a staple of high-end corporate offices and lobbies, a signifier of modernist taste and discourse.

It is credited Museum purchase from Smithsonian Institution Collections Acquisition Program, General Acquisitions Endowment, and Decorative Arts Association Acquisition Funds and through gift of Torsten Bröhan, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel A. Dix, Anne McDonnnell Ford, Eleanor and Sarah Hewitt, Mrs. John Innes Kane from the estate of and in memory of her sister Mrs. Samuel W. Bridgeham, Mrs. Paul Moore, Neil Sellin, Unknown Donor and through bequest of Mrs. John Innes Kane, Ruth Vollmer, and Mary Hayward Weir.

Our curators have highlighted 4 objects that are related to this one. Here are three of them, selected at random:

  • Sandows No. 5 Side Chair, 1929
  • bent chromium-plated tubular steel, fiber, rubber.
  • Museum purchase through gift of Esme Usdan and from General Acquisitions....
  • 2006-17-1

Its dimensions are

H x W x D: 78.3 x 65.5 x 83cm (30 13/16 x 25 13/16 x 32 11/16in.)

Cite this object as

Barcelona Chair, 1929; Designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (American, b. Germany, 1886–1969); Germany; hand-forged steel, hemp; H x W x D: 78.3 x 65.5 x 83cm (30 13/16 x 25 13/16 x 32 11/16in.); Museum purchase from Smithsonian Institution Collections Acquisition Program, General Acquisitions Endowment, and Decorative Arts Association Acquisition Funds and through gift of Torsten Bröhan, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel A. Dix, Anne McDonnnell Ford, Eleanor and Sarah Hewitt, Mrs. John Innes Kane from the estate of and in memory of her sister Mrs. Samuel W. Bridgeham, Mrs. Paul Moore, Neil Sellin, Unknown Donor and through bequest of Mrs. John Innes Kane, Ruth Vollmer, and Mary Hayward Weir; 2000-12-1-a,b

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18678299/ |title=Barcelona Chair, 1929 |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=20 September 2019 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>