Cultured Magazine

April/May 2015

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98 CULTURED Contributing Editor and collector George Lindemann explores the revolutionary potential of a most vernacular object. PHOTO BY SHERRY GRIFFIN, COURTESY OF R & COMPANY O f all design objects, chairs are easiest to collect. A home has only one place for a dining table, but there are many spots for seating. That design collectors always find a corner or stair landing to display a great chair is one reason why designers try to create icons. Joaquim Tenreiro made many attempts to master the chair. Today, we know Tenreiro as the father of modernist Brazilian design. But after moving from Portugal to Brazil in 1928 at the age of 22, Tenreiro worked for a series of cabinet makers reproducing Louis XIV–era furniture. It wasn't until the early 1940s that Tenreiro had broken from historical designs, and even then, he did not commit to a single aesthetic. Instead, he adapted many versions of European modernism to the materials and construction techniques of his new home country. Some chairs have an Italian flair, while others are influenced by the Danish design movement. Throughout this body of work every use is smartly resolved, every design features risk-taking proportions and every detail is engineered and executed with care. Legend has it that perfectionism drove Tenreiro to retire early in 1967. In this array of beautifully designed and crafted chairs, why is the Three-Legged chair the icon? The Three-Legged chair is Tenreiro's best chair from the very first glance: It is impossible to look at this organically shaped seat, on top of three impossibly thin spikes, and not want to sit on it. Second and third looks are just as satisfying. This love letter to Brazil translates cool modernism into stripes of jacaranda, imbuia, ivory wood and cabreúva with all the heat of the rainforest. And if you take an X-ray to the chair, you will find that hundreds of dowels hold these temperamental hardwoods together. The Three-Legged chair is a marvel aesthetically, culturally and technically. Tenreiro knew it was special, too. The chair is one of the few pieces that he consistently labeled as an original Tenreiro design—much of his other work goes unsigned. It is also notable that the Three- Legged chair was never meant to be sold. Tenreiro gifted a chair only to the clients of significant commissions and only after that order was fulfilled. As Brazilian modernism becomes increasingly mainstream, Tenreiro's personal accomplishment, already a six-figure item, will continue breaking ground for the marketplace. Joaquim Tenreiro's Three-Legged chair, circa 1947 PARTY OF THREE

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