A quiet installation of loud objects at SFMOMA sets the scene for discussion and discovery

The sixth floor of SFMOMA’s vertical campus in downtown San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood is the ideal context for Conversation Pieces: Contemporary Furniture in Dialogue, an exhibition on view until June 25, 2023. Architecturally, Mario Botta’s Ticinese stepped-brick hulk is balanced in back by Snøhetta’s taller, fog-inspired addition. Both possess strong personalities (building-alities?) that are strengthened through dialectical pairing.

Similarly, the show, curated by Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher, SFMOMA’s Helen Hilton Raiser Curator of Architecture and Design, features over 40 strong chairs and light fixtures. (All were selected from the museum’s collection.) The point is to mingle eye-catching “conversation starters” and see what happens when their aesthetic collisions are appreciated altogether.

Inevitably, pieces by architects are featured, including an intense Memphis patterned chaise from Nathalie du Pasquier, a “seaweed” seat by Gaetano Pesce, a sober bench from Studio Mumbai’s Bijoy Jain, a fluffy all-black work by Ania Jaworska, and a symbolic comb-chair from Germane Barnes, titled Uneasy Lies the Head that Wears the Crown, from 2020. Other veritable bangers are supplied by creatives like Maarten Baas, Martino Gamper, Dozie Kanu, Rei Kawakubo, Shiro Kuramata, Max Lamb, and Isamu Noguchi, among others.

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