Alessandro Mendini for Studio Alchymia, 'Proust's Armchair', designed and executed circa 1978
hand painted decoration to readymade chair 107cm
Provenance: Purchased for the interior of a furniture and art gallery, Sloane Street, Knightsbridge, London during the late 1970's. Subsequently gifted to the present owner.
"I found an appropriate ready-made in the replica of an eighteenth century armchair, and chose a detail from a Signac painting for the pattern that covers the whole armchair, from its fabric to the wooden parts, dissolving its shape into a kind of nebula. Besides the idea of obtaining a piece of design based on input that is unusual in a normal design process, I also wanted to reach a different type of result, i.e. to make a culturally grounded object based on a false one, seeing that the redesign in this case has been performed on a piece of kitsch, a fake-antique armchair that is still being mass-poduced today... The first "Poltrona di Proust" was made in 1978 as one of the elements for my "Sala del Secolo" ("Room of the Century"), which also included pieces constructed by Alchimia. The exhibition "Incontri ravvicinati di architettura" was held in Ferrara, in the Palazzo dei Diamanti, with Andrea Branzi and Ettore Sottsass Jr. Later that year, the room was brought to the Biennial of Venice. I bought the unfinished chair in Veneto and had it decorated by hand by Prospero Rasulo and Pier Antonio Volpini. Purchased by Cinzia Ruggeri from Alchimia, this first armchair is now part of Guido Antonello's collection in Milan. After the first piece, the chair was included in the first Alchimia Bau-Haus catalogue (1979). Soon Franco Migliaccio was hand-decorating the unfinished wood and white canvas of the chairs then bought in Lombardy using acrylic paints on a fabric paint base. From then until 1987 Alchimia made a certain number of the armchairs, but I am not sure how many, maybe fifteen, but possibly thirty or more - I did not keep track..." Alessandro Mendini, The Story of the Proust Chair, 2001