The Kingdom of Stools

Dung Ngo


“Alice looked all round her at the flowers and the blades of grass... There was a large mushroom growing near her, about the same height as herself; and when she had looked under it, and on both sides of it, and behind it, it occurred to her that she might as well look and see what was on the top of it. 

She stretched herself up on tiptoe, and peeped over the edge of the mushroom, and her eyes immediately met those of a large caterpillar that was sitting on the top with its arms folded, quietly smoking a long hookah, and taking not the smallest notice of her or of anything else.”

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll, 1865

Away from the bright light, they can be found tucked in the underbrush of the sea of legs and moving blankets. Short and often unassuming, they tend to thrive in this thicket environment, somewhat dark and low to ground. Those that can be identified have fanciful names like Rooster, Butterfly, Pirkka, and Fjord, but many are considered 'wild' and still to be classified, having yet to be designated a proper genus. 

I am speaking, of course, not of mushrooms on a forest floor but the stools that have been gathered for this exhibition from Joel Chen's vast furniture warehouses. One hundred and eighteen, to be exact—an edited but still sprawling sampling of this most primordial of furniture type. 

T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings

Terence Harold Robsjohn-Gibbings was born in England in 1905. While studying architecture at the University of London, Robsjohn-Gibbings was fascinated by the restrained elegance of Greek and Roman art, so he often spent his spare time wandering the galleries of the British Museum. In 1929, he moved to New York where he worked for famed tastemaker Charles Duveen before establishing a career as an independent interior designer in 1936. In 1938, Harper’s Bazaar stated that Robsjohn-Gibbings felt that “the modern should stem from the very ancient,” as he believed that furniture should be steeped in the symmetry and rationality of Greek design. In 1946, Robsjohn-Gibbings had the chance to make his ideals manifest when he was invited to design a line of furniture for Widdicomb Furniture Company. His furniture line was hailed as a triumph by House Beautiful, and his design for a butler’s table was featured in the landmark Good Design exhibit of 1951 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

In addition to working as an interior designer, Robsjohns-Gibbings was also an astute critic of design culture in America and he was noted for his humorous novels like Goodbye, Mr. Chippendale, which poked fun at the American craze for all things antique in interior design. During the 1960s, Robsjohn-Gibbings moved to Athens, the birthplace of classicism, and his apartment overlooked the Parthenon. While living in Greece, Robsjohn-Gibbings designed interiors for both Aristotle Onassis and the Niarchos family. Robsjohn-Gibbings passed away in 1976. He left behind a legacy of classically-derived forms, and his elegant works reside in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, among many others.

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Auction Results T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings