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. 

Marcel Breuer

Marcel Breuer’s parents encouraged their children to take interest in culture and the arts from an early age, and when the Hungarian born designer turned eighteen he secured a scholarship to the prestigious Fine Arts Academy in Vienna. Uninterested in the lengthy discussions about aesthetic tradition and eager for a more practical education, he took a job in an architectural firm. When a friend told him about a new art school in Weimar Germany called the Bauhaus, Breuer promptly enrolled. Under the guidance of director Walter Gropius, Breuer became one of six apprentices to join the furniture workshop, producing his earliest known design in 1921, the African Chair. Breuer graduated in 1924 and after a brief time in Paris, returned to the school as the head of the of the carpentry worship in 1925. Inspired by his first bicycle, Breuer began working on designs for a chair made of tubular steel. The revolutionary steel club armchair, known as the Wassily, remains one of his most well-known designs to date.

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