Thursday, September 11, 2008
"louis" ghost chair : phillipe starck
In his “Louis” Ghost Chair, produced in 2002 (manufactured in Italy by Kartell), and now popularly available in shopping emporia around the world, Phillipe Starck investigates the transparent medium of plastic, echoing a Louis XVI chair of the eighteenth century. The predecessor chair, constructed just before the French Revolution, speaks to the tastes of the French court, and specifically of the French king. Some might classify it as ornate, refined, and delicate with its medallion back, slender arms and legs, and gilded surfaces. Usually upholstered in silk, damask, or tapestry fabrics, the Louis XVI chair historically symbolized royalty and their quest for interior spaces, finishes, and furnishings that connected them to artisans throughout the world. In connecting to worldly goods, these artifacts suggested power to amass wealth and spend it on luxury items. Starck, with an approach to harkening back, references these ideas in the 2002 chair but utilizes plastic as a critique on materialism by stripping away all of the actual “material” finishes of the historic chair, leaving only the sleek surface of the plastic as a ghostly reminder of the past and its excesses. Most often, the Starck Ghost Chair finds a home in residential spaces, with some limited commercial application. Often paired or in larger groups, the ability to reproduce this chair many times over also comments on the rejection of materialism. No matter how many chairs stack up, they still seemingly disappear before the viewer’s eye. The form of the chair, quite comfortable by this writer’s “test drive,” contradicts its fleeting materiality and provides, according to Design within Reach: “a generously sized seat and medallion backrest.” (www.dwr.com).