Inside the ‘Make Yourself Comfortable’ Exhibition

Seats of Power

 Riddle does as its told at the Make Yourself Comfortable at Chatsworth contemporary seating exhibition 

Article by Sam Clark

I was delighted to find that, at the latest exhibition to be held in the elegant stately home of Chatsworth, visitors are welcome to sit down in most of the exhibits. I shouldn’t have been surprised, though, given the exhibition’s title is Make Yourself Comfortable at Chatsworth: a collection of contemporary seating gathered from some of the world’s leading artists and designers, with a number of works specially commissioned and pleasingly few red velvet ropes inhibiting the visitor from trying the pieces on display out for themselves.

The exhibits have been thoughtfully selected and commissioned, and range from functional design classics to sculptural, often witty forms. One notable inclusion is Marc Newson’s iconic Lockheed Lounge chair – which propped up Madonna’s shapely form in her video for the hit “Rain”, and which garnered further fame when one was sold at auction in 2009 for over £1million, making it easily the world most expensive contemporary chair.

Another highlight is a fascinating piece created by George Wood, a member of the Chatsworth house team who was inspired by Dutch designer Piet Hein Eek’s Kröller Müller chair to make his own version from discarded materials from the estate’s Country Fair.

Entering the house, the first pieces you’ll encounter are Thomas Heatherwick’s ‘Spun’ chairs. If you’re game enough to brave these engaging, play-ground spinning top-like creations, you’ll be rewarded with a perfect 360 degree panorama of the hall’s magnificent 300-year-old painted ceiling depicting William III as Emperor Caesar and, no doubt, a smile just as wide.

As you meander through the grand rooms of Chatsworth House you’ll discover more and more pieces perspicaciously positioned – almost as if they were, well, part of the furniture. Thomas Mills’ ‘ifsodoso’ is a wheel-shaped mini-library in which one can recline, literally surrounded by books. Water Block by Tokujin Yoshioka is a glass bench floating in the grotto before a sculpture of the goddess Diana bathing. In the Sculpture Gallery, London design studio Raw Edges have made benches and stools grow from the floor creating an organic landscape among the classical sculptures.

Sitting down dramatically alters your presence in any given setting. Releasing the energy and resistance of standing you surrender to your environment and become more in tune with your surroundings. It’s a wonderful way to view Chatsworth, which has been the Cavendish home since 1549 and is stuffed full of the family treasures collected over the centuries: works by Old Masters, neoclassical sculptures, priceless artifacts and much more.

As is the case in any family home, there are knickknacks everywhere and lived-in warmth and humour in every corner. See if you can spot the exquisite violin that is not really there and the columns that follow you like Mona Lisa’s eyes. The collection is evolving constantly, thanks to contemporary additions such as the 20 meter long installation where the Duke and Duchesses’ DNA is mapped out in small ceramic steps which seem to tap at your eyes. It’s like walking through a sheet of classical music.

“We want you to sit on modern day seats and feel at home,” states the stately home’s website. We did, thank you, and suggest you do to.

The ‘Make Yourself Comfortable at Chatsworth’ exhibition runs until 23 October 2015.

Enquires: Chatsworth House,Bakewell, Derbyshire DE45 1PP / 01246 565300 / www.chatsworth.org

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