Eames Design: The JF Chen Collection

by Daniel Ostroff

Charles and Ray Eames worked tirelessly to improve their designs, constantly adjusting and adapting to create better products. Assembled around that idea, the collection features works that span the entire spectrum of production; for example this sale includes many DCMs, from early production pieces manufactured by Evans Products, to rare examples made of rosewood from the 1960s and a wenge example from the 1980s. These variations exhibit differences in construction, such as the shape of the shock mounts or the glides on the feet, which point to different periods of production as the Eames modified their designs.  

Eames designs are made to order and Herman Miller only produces furniture when an order comes in. So we paid attention to the provenance of the pieces we acquired for the collection, seeking out sets originally purchased together. Sometimes this took years as was the case for the matched and dated set of four red on red Eames fiberglass PACs and the rare custom black top table. These items were acquired on three separate occasions over three years from two different dealers. Today, this one-of-a-kind set is reunited.

Twenty years in the making, the JF Chen Collection is unmatched in its thorough representation of the works of Charles and Ray Eames. In 2011, the collection was exhibited at JF Chen as part of the Getty Museum’s exhibition celebrating West Coast art and design, Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980. This significant exhibition was sponsored by Nike, Herman Miller and 1st Dibs and many of the works were included in the accompanying exhibition catalog, Collecting Eames: The JF Chen Collection. In addition, twenty works from the collection are featured on the Getty Museum website in an online exhibition that I curated for another Getty Pacific Standard Time show, Eames Words at the A + D Museum.

Joel Chen’s interest in the material extended beyond this extraordinary collection. Chen funded the photography and cataloging of the collection ensuring that the details would be preserved for future generations, his work and generosity culminating in the Eames Office Catalog Raisonné, a valuable online resource.

The following auction invites collectors to participate in Joel Chen’s vision of preserving and celebrating the diversity of Eames designs.