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'Portrait of My Mother's Chesterfield', a rare Armchair

'Portrait of My Mother's Chesterfield', a rare Armchair
executed by Dansk Polyether Industri A/S, Frederikssund, Denmark
poured polyurethane foam
31 ½ x 55 x 47 ¾ in. (80 x 140 x 110 cm.)
Executed circa 1964. From the experimental series of 11 unique chairs and 2 unique sofas.

Other examples of the 'Portrait of My Mother's Chesterfield' chair are included in the permanent collections of:
The Museum of Modern Art, New York;
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam;
Designmuseum, Copenhagen;
The Museum of Modern Art, Tel Aviv;
Montreal Museum of Decorative Art;
The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen;
TECTA, Lauenförde, Germany.
Gunnar Aagaard Andersen.
Thence by descent.
The present owner, 2011.
Other examples illustrated:
S.E. Møller 'Munkerphus', Mobilia, no. 121-121, August-September 1965, PP. 386-87
B. Salicath, 'Kommentar til Køln - til byen og den internationale møbelmesse', Dansk Kunsthåndværk, no. 4, 1965-1966, p. 110.
The Design Collection: Selected Objects, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1970, n.p. Gunnar Aagaard Andersen, exh. cat., Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Aahrus, 1977, n.p. for period images of the chair in production.
Design 1935-1965: What Modern Was, exh. cat., Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1991, pp. 294-96.
C. Greenberg, Op to Pop: Furniture of the 1960s, Boston, 1999, p. 169.
L. Dosi Delfini, ed., The Furniture Collection, Stedelijk Museum Asterdam, from Marcel Thonet to Marcel Wanders, Amsterdam, 2004, pp. 11, 95.
Formless Furniture, exh. cat., MAK, Vienna, 2008, front matter, pp. 18-19 for period images of the chair in production and another example illustrated and the 1965 exhibition view.
M. Kries, M. Schwartz-Clauss, eds., Pop Art Design, exh. cat., Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, 2012, p. 160.
V. Petersen Gether, Gunnar Aagaard Andersen, Copenhagen, 2016, pp. 491, 506-507 for illustrations of nine examples, including the present lot.
Special notice
Please note that at our discretion some lots may be moved immediately after the sale to our storage facility at Momart Logistics Warehouse: Units 9-12, E10 Enterprise Park, Argall Way, Leyton, London E10 7DQ. At King Street lots are available for collection on any weekday, 9.00 am to 4.30 pm. Collection from Momart is strictly by appointment only. We advise that you inform the sale administrator at least 48 hours in advance of collection so that they can arrange with Momart. However, if you need to contact Momart directly: Tel: +44 (0)20 7426 3000 email:

Brought to you by

Jeremy Morrison
Jeremy Morrison

Lot Essay

Architect, designer, sculptor, painter, graphic designer: all were titles applied to the prolific creative spirit Gunnar Aagaard Andersen during his lifetime. After graduating from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen in 1946, Aagaard Andersen’s approach involved a deep and thorough knowledge of materials and their behaviour, the fullest use of which should be the aim and responsibility of an artist, he later claimed (Gunnar Aagaard Andersen, ‘Furniture Reconsidered’,Mobilia, 1980, no. 296-97). An active exponent of the Parisian Art Concrete movement, which he joined in 1951, materiality and its potential was a central fascination which he revisited throughout his entire career, and later in his teachings at the Academy between 1972 and 1981. Indeed, his multidisciplinary, subversive and experimental attitude towards design served to distinguish him from his contemporaries, in an almost provocative way.

Arguably his most celebrated work, Portrait of My Mother’s Chesterfield was first conceived in 1963 when Aagaard Andersen was invited by the Designmuseum Denmark, Copenhagen, to participate in the upcoming ‘Reality’ exhibition. For the project Andersen chose to explore the potential of plastic — specifically the capacities of polyurethane foam to create useable furniture without the need for a mould or any type of inner structural frame — a ground-breaking concept. Using the facilities and experience of Dansk Polyether Industri, Aagaard Andersen’s experiments evolved a method of production whereby the polyurethane was poured directly on the floor and, after letting the foam expand, repeatedly built up layers of foam until the chair reached his desired size and volume. The expansion of the foam after being poured could not be controlled, a feature Aagaard Andersen fully embraced, and so the very few armchairs produced each have unique variations of scale, surface and personality.

The production of the chairs lasted only a short time, initially using pure white foam and then white foam which he then spray-painted black, before the designer further explored production possibilities by using pre-tinted black liquid polyurethane. For the 1965 exhibition Aagaard Andersen submitted two white foam armchairs and a sofa. The current lot is an early example produced using the initial experimental spray-painted method. Of the eleven armchairs and two sofas Aagaard Andersen made, one sofa was destroyed shortly after manufacture. Of the armchairs, seven are now in major international museum and institution collections. The present work was one of two armchairs retained by the designer, one which was used daily, whereas the current lot was deliberately stored unused by the designer in his private collection.

Portrait of My Mother’s Chesterfield created a significant amount of international interest. Due to the complex and involved production method, the design never attained mass-production and the overwhelming majority of the few examples eventually produced are now preserved in museum collections, underlining the rarity of the present lot now offered at auction. With tremendous foresight, an example of the armchair was acquired in 1966 by The Museum of Modern Art in New York under the aegis of Arthur Drexler, Director of its Department of Architecture and Design. An enthusiastic supporter of Aagaard Andersen, Drexler made repeated remarks on the importance of this particular work in relation to the progression of design and its place in design history. Under his direction MoMA had been expanding its collection on the basis of two criteria: quality and historical significance. Portrait of My Mother’s Chesterfield was repeatedly included in several of their exhibitions, includingThe Design Collection: Selected Objects of 1970, and was celebrated as one of the most significant purchases of the era the Department of Architecture and Design had secured.

Whilst clearly part of the Pop Art movement, with Portrait of My Mother’s Chesterfield Aagaard Andersen deliberately set out to blur all boundaries between design, art and sculpture. Despite its uncategorisable personality, the form remains a comfortable and functional armchair, whose name harkens back to the reassuringly traditional deep-buttoned leather Chesterfield settees of earlier generations. The familiar reassurances offered by the work’s title are challenged by the actual piece itself, with its volcanic impact, seemingly the product of a natural extrusion, created without the need of a designer – an inference delighted in by Aagard Andersen and noted by Drexler who called it an ‘Anti-Object’. The onlooker is again subverted when the piece is touched or sat on, with the visual impression of being hard and immovable countermanded by the inferred pliability of the use foam, and again further by its reality, having a resilience and tactility which is unexpected. Its sensory impact is as powerful today as it was in 1964.

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