Television BS211H Contour settee (1953)
hardwood, plywood, cotton
78.7 x 119.4 x 82.0 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Grant and Mary Featherston, 1973
This dynamic exhibition presents a rare chance to enjoy the art of mid-century Australian furniture design and is part of our renewed focus on modern and contemporary design at the NGV.
Innovative furniture design took hold in Australia following World War Two, prompted in part by the availability of new materials (and sometimes the shortages of others), the development of new production techniques and the influx of European immigrants who were skilled in the traditions of fine furniture making. Taking their cue from international trends in furniture, local designers adopted the pared-back language of modernism to create stylish sculptural furniture that was functional and flexible and which found the ideal setting in the modernist architecture of the period.
From Grant Featherston’s iconic plywood Contour range and Clement Meadmore’s welded steel corded chairs, so distinctive of the 1950s, to Gordon Andrews’ elegant 1960s designs for home and office, mid-century modern furniture design turned its back on the overstuffed and ornate examples of previous decades and in doing so, revolutionised the contemporary interior.
The exhibition will focus on the work of key figures including Grant Featherston, Clement Meadmore, Douglas Snelling, Gordon Andrews, Fred Lowen and Schulim Krimper. It will also encompass designs by visual artists such as Robert Klippel and Janet Dawson who occasionally adapted their creative skills to the production of furniture; tables, hand-painted with illustrations of Indigenous dreamings produced by Bill Onus’ Aboriginal Enterprises, and examples of do-it-yourself Patterncraft furniture designed by Fred Ward.
The important relationship between contemporary architecture and furniture design will be highlighted through the ‘recreation’ of modern interior vignettes and the 1971 Marion Hall Best interior designed for Joan and Richard Crebbin’s Castlecrag home comprising Gordon Andrews’ Rondo chairs, a Mona Hessing shag-pile rug and Jack Meyers’ sound/wall sculpture (NGV). Contextual material including working drawings, textiles of the period and photographs of contemporary architecture will also be included, building a rich picture of this relatively little known aspect of Australia’s design history.