Friday, December 2, 2011

Selene stacking chair | Vico Magistretti | Artemide, Italy | 1968

Vico Magistretti Selene Chair Vico Magistretti
Artemide, Italy, 1968

Ludovico Magistretti was born in Milan on October 6, 1920 and graduated from the Milan Polytechnic in 1945.  The war intervened and as Italy rebuilt, Magistretti developed a reputation as an avant-garde architect.  In the 60s, Magistretti’s fascination with the possibilities of industrial production led to his groundbreaking work in plastic. He had the uncanny ability to impart beauty and dignity to this modern material.  He served on several Compasso d’Oro juries and won the award three times. Vico Magistretti died September 19, 2006.

Vico Magistretti Foundation

See the Vico Magistretti Foundation website for a wealth of information about the designer.

 Eclisse table lampEclisse table lamp.  Image source:  Voltex.  Maralunga 675 two seater sofa Maralunga 675 two seater sofa. Image source:  1stdibs.com.

Atollo 233/D table lamp
Atollo 233/D table lamp. Image source:  Retrotogo.
Compasso d'Oro
Magistretti won the Compasso d’Oro in 1967 for the Eclisse table lamp, in 1979 for the Maralunga 675 sofa, and in 1979 for the Atollo 233/D table lamp.

In the Selene stacking chair and the Vicario and Gaudi armchairs, all produced by Artemide, Magistretti took advantage of the strength and fluidity of reinforced polyester to produce chairs which were sculptural, comfortable and – thanks to industrial production methods – affordable. While complex in structure, the Selene chair could still be fabricated by a single injection molding of fiberglass reinforced polyester.

“You finally create a chair that distinguishes itself from everything that has been realized up to that point in time by not adhering to the rules but by listening to the possibilities that the new material whispers to you.  In the mould, the material acts like honey.  You must comprehend the expressive potential of this fact; modern technology won’t give you anything if you cut yourself off from it.” – Vico Magistretti in Designer Italiani.

Sketch for Stadio table Magistretti developed the innovative S-shaped leg to gracefully retain stiffness and not buckle under the weight of the user.  The design was actually first tried with folded paper.  It was developed prior to the Selene chair for a forerunner of the Stadio table (1966), a sketch of which is shown at left, that was never put into production.

Original image source:  Vico Magistretti, Elegance and innovation in Italian design (1991).


At right, a sketch for the Selene chair.

Original image source:  Vico Magistretti, Elegance and innovation in Italian design (1991).

Sketch for Selene chair

“The key to the Selene chair was the section of the leg.  I think I dealt with the problem by using a particular technology in the most proper way possible, but without allowing myself to be conditioned by it, or even inspired by the idea of modernity for its own sake.” – Vico Magistretti

The Selene chair is included in the permanent design collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York here, the Vitra Museum, and other leading museums around the world.  The Selene chair was also shown at the 1972 exhibition “Italy: the New Domestic Landscape” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Other Magistretti objects in the show were the related Gaudi and Vicario armchairs (Artemide), the Stadio 80 table (Artemide), the Eclisse table lamp with adjustable shade (Artemide), the Giunone metal floor lamp with four rotating shades (Artemide), and the wooden Golem chair (Poggi).

Gaudi armchair Gaudi armchair.  Image source: Live auctioneers. Vicario armchairVicario armchair.  Image source: Modernity.
Stadio 80 tableStadio 80 table.  Image source:  1stdibs.com.

Eclisse table lamp Eclisse table lamp.  Image source:  Voltex.

Giunone floor lampGiunone floor lamp.  Image source:  Wannenes. Golem chairGolem chair.  Image source:  Architonic.

The range of dates given for the design of the Selene chair is broad, all the way from 1961 (MoMA cites this date) to 1969 (claimed by Magistretti himself in an interview).  Aspects of the design certainly were worked on throughout the 60s leading to the Selene chair being shown at the 14th Triennale in Milan in 1968.

Selene chair in Design Magazine

From a “Things Seen” article in Design Magazine published in January, 1969 (p.70). Groovy GRP Lightness and stackability are two prime requirements of inexpensive all-purpose upright chairs. Vico Magistretti, who designed this glass-reinforced polyester stacking chair for Studio Artemide, Milan has added elegance. Particularly successful are the slender grooved legs, S-shaped in section, which present a front and rear elevation of distinction. The Selene chair measures 47 cm x 78 cm x 50 cm and comes in white, black, orange or red GRP. Magistretti has also designed the Studio, a matching table in the same range of colours.

Design online logo

Click the Design Online logo above to be taken to the searchable archives of Design Magazine.


 Selene chair, white Selene chair, white Selene chair imprint, white

Image source:  Deconet.com

Selene chair imprint, red Selene chair, redSelene chair, red 

Image source:  Etsy.com.  The set of four chairs was $799 plus $150 for Greyhound shipping.  Notice the distinctive S-shape of the chair leg in the top image.

GreenSelene chair, green

Image source: Victoria and Albert Museum.

Selene chair, greenA set of six Vico Magistretti “Selene” plastic chairs, Artemide. Marked “Artemide U.K. LTD. Selene Chaire. Designer Vico Magistretti Made in England”. Estimated at SEK 4 000 – 6 000 (€ 450 – 700).  Hammer price SEK 3 000 / € 350.  Described as having minor wear.  Sold in Bukowskis August 31, 2010 auction as lot 693.  Image source:  Bukowskis.


Selene chair, brown

Image source:  eBay.

Selene chair, Artemide Artemide France advertisement for the Selene chair.  Indicates it is made of Reglar, comes in black, chocolate brown, and green.  The Selene is 47cm in length, 50cm in width, and 75cm in height.  Image source:  City Furniture.

Heller reissue of Selene chair, transparent Heller reissue of Selene chair, whiteHeller reissue of Selene chair, red Heller reissue of Selene chair, black

Heller rereleased the Selene chair as their model 1006 in 2002 in white, black, red, and transparent.  The chair is constructed of single piece injection molded nylon (for the colored chairs) or polycarbonate (for the transparent chair).  The dimensions of the chair are 77cm (29 1/2”) height, 47cm (18 1/2”) width, and 5ocm (19 11/16”) depth with a seat height of 47cm (18 1/2”).

Selene chair schematicSelene chair schematic.  Image source: Eye on Design.  Check out the site below.  Lots of great information (in Italian).

 Eye on Design logo

Selene chair technical data sheet

Technical data sheet for the Heller reissue of the Selene chair, model 1006.

The original intention of the Vitra Design Museum to give visitors access to design not only by means of publications, but also in the form of three-dimensional objects, resulted in the creation of a unique museum product: models of the most important pieces of furniture in design history on a reduced scale. The Miniatures of the Vitra Design Museum are exemplary teaching objects with regard to quality and craftsmanship, and also iconic manifestations of the Museum Collection.

They not only fulfill the financial purpose of contributing to the Museum's budget, but also serve as ideal demonstration pieces within the context of academic studies or skilled trades. Among design connoisseurs, the Miniatures of the Vitra Design Museum have become coveted collector's items. At present, the Miniatures Collection encompasses almost 100 different models, which are sold in exclusive design shops all over the world.

Selene chair Vitra miniature

Selene chair Vitra miniature, with box and booklet.  Image source:  eBay.

Additional information about the Selene stacking chair, including original sketches from the Vico Magistretti foundation, the 1967 patent, a prototype model, and the Heller version, as taken out of the mold before refinement can be found at the Vico Magistretti studio museum and this article at designboom.  The studio museum is located in 20, via Conservatorio in the city center Milan and is open to the public from Tuesday to Friday from 2 pm to 6 pm.

As always, check out Sorellarium 13 for all the best in plastic design from Space: 1999.  This link takes you to the page about the Selene stacking chair.

Selected Bibliography

Domus, No. 466 (September, 1968), p.38.

Ambasz, E., ed., Italy: The new domestic landscape:  Achievements and problems of Italian design. New York, 1972, p.41.

S. Giacomoni & A. Marcolli, Designer Italiani, Milan, 1988.

Philippe Decelle, Diane Hennebert, Pierre Loze, L'Utopie Du Tout Plastique 1960 - 1973, 1994, p.50.

C. Fiell & P. Fiell, 1000 Chairs, Cologne, 2000, p.444

O. Máčel, S. Woertman, and C. van Wijk, Chairs: Catalog of the Delft faculty of architecture collection. Rotterdam, 2008, pp.108-109.


Pasca, V., Vico Magistretti, Elegance and innovation in Italian design, Thames & Hudson: London (1991), p. 38.

Vico Magistretti. Retrieved December 2, 2011 from http://www.vico-magistretti.com/

Selene datasheet. Retrieved December 2, 2011 from http://www.helleronline.com/wp-content/plugins/download-monitor/download.php?id=52

Selene stacking chairs. Retrieved December 2, 2011 from http://www.moma.org/collection/browse_results.php?object_id=3508

Share |

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails