Enter any café in Vienna and you’ll likely see a bentwood chair (often a little faded with the ravages of time and a million drops of spilled coffee).
The chair’s introduction in the 19th century influenced furniture design for decades to come, with the Thonet company at the centre of the revolution: the Bentwood and Beyond exhibition at the MAK museum explores the continuing influence of Thonet and its products.
- Covers the importance of the Thonet company to the Vienna modernist movement and beyond
- Further details nearer the time, but expect to at least see the world-famous No. 14 chair in all its glory
- Open Dec 18, 2019 – Apr 13, 2020
- See also: Events in Vienna
Thonet and the chair
A headline that sounds like an unexciting children’s story. What chair? And what’s so great about it?
Ah, well, this is no ordinary wooden seat. This is the chair all little chairs want to be when they grow up. A chair of myth and legend. A chair that stamped its four-legged authority on a city, perhaps an empire, perhaps the world. Most importantly, a chair that epitomises Viennese coffee culture: Thonet’s No. 14 chair, designed by Michael Thonet.
Launched on an unsuspecting world in 1859 by the Thonet company, this iconic piece of furniture made use of a bentwood manufacturing technique developed by Michael Thonet himself – bending wood under pressure and steam, and then letting it harden again.
The No. 14 chair combined graceful wooden curves and robustness with fast, modern production processes to essentially bring about a revolution in furniture design and manufacture. Thonet sold tens of millions and the company still make and sell its modern iteration (known as no. 214).
The Bentwood and Beyond exhibition looks at the role played by the Thonet company in various aspects of past and present furniture design, beginning with the early impact of their bentwood approaches. I’ll add more information as details become available. But expect to see a lot of chairs. Beautiful chairs.
Dates and tickets
The exhibition runs from Wednesday, December 18th, 2019 to Monday, April 13th, 2020. That’s a while away, so opening times, prices and ticketing may change, but at the moment the MAK opens every day bar Monday from 10 am to 6 pm (10 pm on Tuesdays).
A normal entrance ticket to the museum gets you into the Thonet exhibition. A standard ticket currently costs €12 with concessions available and free admission for under 19s. You can buy tickets online* and the MAK is also covered by the Vienna Pass (see my review of this all-inclusive sightseeing pass).
How to get to the Thonet exhibition
See the main MAK article for tips, but it’s easy to reach given the central location with a subway and tram stop practically outside the museum’s front door.
Address: Stubenring 5, 1010 Vienna