Special exhibition




The GRASSI Museum of Applied Arts is honoured to host one of the world’s largest private collections of chairs by artists, designers, and architects. The collection was initiated by Thierry Barbier-Mueller in the 1990s and is full of original seating designs with a quality that is unique and goes far beyond the usual typology of chairs.

To underline the sculptural character of the elements, the great American director and artist Robert Wilson was entrusted with the scenography for the exhibition. This exceptional setting plunges the public into immersive worlds where the chairs are treated as the protagonists of a performing arts show. Sound, light and sets provide a unique way to discover the iconic design object that is the chair and its many variations.

A Chair and You reads like an opera in four acts in various scenic situations. Based on the Thierry Barbier-Mueller collection the scenography reveals the history of design from the 1960s to the present day.

The Thierry Barbier-Mueller Collection

In the 1990s, Thierry Barbier-Mueller was fascinated by the creativity, freshness and tremendous explosion of spontaneity of designers such as Ron Arad and Tom Dixon. His acquisitions grew spontaneously as he met and discovered new designers until they became a fully-fledged collection of more than 650 chairs from the 1960s to the present day. The collection includes works by international designers such as Ettore Sottsass, Ron Arad, Martino Gamper and Maarten Baas, as well as visual artists such as Donald Judd, Niki de Saint Phalle, Lawrence Weiner and Franz West.

Consisting of about two-thirds unique pieces, prototypes or works from small, limited editions, the collection reflects this interest in atypical objects, outside the usual niches of industrial design. Barbier-Mueller was above all fascinated in the object itself, its uniqueness and plasticity, the humour it evokes or its materiality.

An exhibition produced by Mudac - Museum of Contemporary Design and Applied Arts, Lausanne and Fondation Musée Barbier-Mueller, Geneva

Chantal Prod’Hom, Susanne Hilpert Stuber, Thierry Barbier-Mueller und Charlotte Savolainen-Mailler

Robert Wilson

Associate scenographer:
Annick Lavallée-Benny

Project coordinator:
Miriam Heckhoff