Fit for a King
Lewis & Clark's Temple Chair
The present lot won first place in the 1983 Surface and Ornament design competition put on by the Fromica Corporation to explore the potential of its new product Colorcore laminate. First shown at NeoCon in 1983, the exhibit was a hit and subsequently traveled across the United States, Italy and Japan before finally closing at The Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati in 1986. The brainchild of Susan Grant Lewin, the creative director for the Formica Corporation and former editor of House Beautiful, the competition had over 700 submissions. Grant Lewin also invited ten established designers to exhibit works featuring Colorcore laminate. Stanley Tigerman, Frank Gehry, Helmut Jahn, Massimo and Lella Vignelli, Emilio Ambasz and Ward Bennet all submitted designs.
The designer behind the chair was Clark Ellefson, a sculptor and furniture designer based in South Carolina. Together, he and his partner Jim Lewis, made up Lewis & Clark, a gallery and workshop in downtown Columbia. Inspired by the Memphis School of Design, Ellefson crafted imaginative furniture designs throughout the 1980s and 90s with an emphasis on surface and materiality.
Of his Temple Chair, Ellefson explain that it was designed “for a deity who sits enthroned while tiny worshippers perform exotic rituals”. When the Surface and Ornament tour ended, it was gifted by the Formica Corporation to the Art Institute of Chicago where it remained until this earlier year. Documentation suggests that only one example of the chair was produced.