Thonet & Design
From a one-man business to a global enterprise: We reflect on 200 years of furniture design as illustrated by the history of family company Thonet. The groundbreaking achievements of the early period – new technologies, new design methods, new distribution and marketing channels – are juxtaposed to developments in the 20th and early 21st century. The firm founded in 1819 by Michael Thonet, a master cabinet-maker from Boppart, evolved down through the decades into one of the most important makers of bentwood furniture. Its “No. 14” continues to be one of the most popular chairs to this day and is still produced in large numbers. In the late 1920s, Thonet turned its attention to tubular steel furniture and teamed up with several Bauhaus designers who created chairs in what was then an innovative technology. As these tubular steel furniture items and the early bentwood furniture have long been part of the permanent exhibition at Die Neue Sammlung, the focus of the current presentation is on the pioneering creations by modern designers from Eddie Harlis via Verner Panton through to Norman Foster, Stefan Diez, Konstantin Grcic and – most recently – Sebastian Herkner. For the design of the exhibition we were able to engage the services of Munich designer Steffen Kehrle, who in this context is also designing a seat especially for Die Neue Sammlung.