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See 200 years of chair design, and sit in rare styles at new exhibit

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The exhibit at Driehaus Museum is open until August 12

The Driehaus Museum recently opened a new exhibit, The Art of Seating, detailing 200 years of chair design. And it turns out where we choose to sit says a lot about us.

The exhibit features 37 American chairs crafted between 1810 and 2010 providing clear cut visuals of how aesthetics have changed. It shows how tastes have shifted—from the intricate, hand-crafted Egyptian revival style in the late 19th century to the contemporary designs of Vivian Beer, only possible with modern technology.

A room in The Art of Seating exhibit
Courtesy of Driehaus Museum

Our culture and environment are huge influencers as well which is reflected in the array of chairs. The curator of exhibit, Catherine Shotick, told Chicago Magazine her favorite piece is the Texas Longhorn Armchair crafted by a San Antonian grocer in the 1890s from cattle horns leftover from a slaughterhouse. His “bizzare, fantastical” chairs, some with more than 20 longhorns, became very popular in London.

The influential designs also come from well-known figures such as George Hunzinger, the Herter Brothers, the Stickley Brothers, Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles and Ray Eames, Ero Saarinen, Isamu Noguchi and Frank Gehry. Even if you don’t recognize all the names, you’re bound to be familiar with their designs.

While the chairs in the exhibit are only for your eyes, there is a component lounge for your bum. The Art of Sitting lounge has 11 chairs and one ottoman where you can sit and experience the design how it was meant to be.

Most of the chairs were donated by the manufacturers or designers and four are on loan from the Richard H. Driehaus Collection. Many of the chairs in the lounge cost upwards of $500, and the originals can reach more than $2,000.

A few of the designs you’ll be able to try out include the Molded Plywood Lounge Chair designed by Charles and Ray Eames for Herman Miller, the Bertoia Diamond Chair by Harry Bertoia for Knoll and Frank Gehry’s Superlight Chair.

The Art of Seating will be open until August 12 at the Driehaus Museum located at 40 E. Erie Street.

Visitors can try out these chairs and ottoman in The Art of Sitting lounge
Courtesy of Driehaus Museum