Today when we think of where inventive contemporary design
is manufactured, we often think of Italy. This, however, was not
always the case. Wide acceptance of modern design came
somewhat later in Italy than elsewhere, perhaps because of the
ever-present conservative influence of the palpable Roman classical past and the slow development of the Italian economy
in the twentieth century. To be sure, before World War II there
were important modern designers in Italy, foremost Gio Ponti,
an architect from Milan whose influence spread beyond his
native country through two architecture and design magazines he
founded, Domus and Stile. And the Fascist regime of Mussolini in
the pre-World War II period did embrace modern architecture,
unlike the Nazi regime in Germany, which consciously rejected
modernism as a source of foreign, moral corruption. It was not,
however, until the post-World War II era, when the Italian economy
expanded rapidly, that Italian modern design achieved international recognition.
One pivotal event made consumers in the United States aware
of the diversity and accomplishments of modern Italian design—the exhibition Italy at Work, which travelled to twelve venues
between 1950 and 1954. The exhibition was initiated by the Art
Institute of Chicago in partnership with two organizations devoted to the promulgation of Italian design, Handicraft Development
Incorporated in the United States and its corresponding institution
in Italy, CADMA. Italy at Work included hundreds of objects by
more than 150 artisans and manufacturers and featured furniture,
ceramics, glass, textiles, metalwork, jewelry, shoes, knit clothing,
and industrial design. The exhibition opened at the Brooklyn
Museum, and at its conclusion, when the objects were dispersed
among the host institutions, the lion’s share, more than two hundred items, came to the Museum.
In the second half of the twentieth century, Italy became a
center for modern design. Many foreigners went there to study
and work at small, adventurous firms that produced high-quality objects.
Aluminum, plastic, plastic mesh, plano covered foam seat
38 1/4 x 27 3/8 x 20 1/4 in. (97.2 x 69.5 x 51.4 cm) (show scale)
Molded in plastic on underside of chair:
"Meda Chair / [in script] Alberto Meda / vitra."
In plastic pouch attached to bottom of seat, a white plastic tag printed in black:
"UNDER PENALTY OF LAW / THIS TAG IS NOT TO BE REMOVED / EXCEPT BY THE CONSUMER / [line] / URETHANE FOAM 90% / POLYESTER FIBER 10% / [line] / LIC. No. PA-24543 / [line] / Certification is / made by the / manufacturer that / the materials in / this article are / described in / accordance with / law. / [line] / MADE BY / VITRA, INC. / 6560 STONEGATE DR., ALLENTOWN, PA 18106 / Date of Delivery ______________ / Conforms to Cal Tech Bulletin 117"
In plastic pouch attached to bottom of seat, paper booklet with cover reading:
"Meda Chair / Gebrauchsanleitung. / Instruction for use. / Mode d'emploi. / Gebruiksaanwijzing. / Istruzioni per l'uso. / Instrucciones para / el uso. / [in bold] vitra. [silhouette of the chair]"
Printed on label affixed to plastic pouch:
"Ack: 037286-001/ Prod: 41700200 / Date: 01/16/04 / 1 of 1"
Molded in the aluminum of chair base:
"938-646 / AL [inscribed within a triangle within a circle (recycling symbol)]"
Label: Alberto Meda
Gift of Vitra, Inc.
Office chair with aluminum frame, on castors, with black plastic arms, black cushioned seat and white mesh covering high back. Raised on aluminum star-shaped base formed by legs radiating out and down to black plastic casters. Roughly square cushioned seat with aluminum frame, aluminum left uncovered in two back corners. Midway on each side of the seat two black plastic arms are attached. Arms consist of a narrow rectangular hard plastic portion holding aloft a triangular cushioned arm rest. Tall back is roughly rectangular and covered in a white mesh fabric through which the aluminum frame can be seen. On underside of seat a plastic pouch is attached containing manufacturer’s information and instructional booklet.
This item is not on view
Alberto Meda (Italian, born 1945). Meda Chair, designed 1996. Aluminum, plastic, plastic mesh, plano covered foam seat, 38 1/4 x 27 3/8 x 20 1/4 in. (97.2 x 69.5 x 51.4 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Vitra, Inc., 2004.15. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2004.15_PS2.jpg)
overall, 2004.15_PS2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2007
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Can you tell me more about this chair please?
Yes, this is a great example of mid-century Italian design. Italy's economy experienced a boom in the 1950s and 60s, largely due to their progressive designers.
By the 1990s, Italian designers were looking back to the heyday of design for inspiration. The soft curves of the chrome recall the space age design of the mid-century.