The LOCKHEED LOUNGE Chaise Longue/Lounger/Daybed, designed in the 80’s by fresh-out-of-the-Arts-school Australian designer Marc Newson, is one of the most iconic pieces of modern furniture and, certainly, the most expensive one to date by a living designer. Its core consists of fiberglass-reinforced polyester resin covered by a patchwork of aluminum sheets which are held together by blind flat-head rivets. The feet are covered by a black rubberized paint coat (except for the 1988 Prototype which is the only one with white exposed fiberglass reinforced polyester resin feet).
The first edition (1985) of the chair was named “LC1” after Le Corbusier’s “LC4” Chaise Longue/Lounger/Daybed.
But Marc Newson’s main inspiration for this piece came from the seating type called “Recamier”; a type of chaise longue/lounger/daybed named after Juliette Récamier as depicted in her 1800 portrait by French painter Jacques-Louis David. The designer actually wanted to create a modern interpretation of the “Recamier” albeit “loosely, very loosely”.
At the time, it was “more of a sculpture than a chair” project for Marc Newson, so he was not really concerned with making it comfortable to sit/lie on it.
He recalls that he had the idea of a fluid, aluminium form like a “globule of mercury“; “a seamless, smooth, shiny object”. His vision was “pretty accurate” both in terms of “shape” and “material”, but he didn’t exactly know how to get there.
He kicked-off his creation by, literally, carving his first ‘prototype’ with an electric kitchen knife and a wire brush out of a massive lump of polyurethane foam in his garden at the back of the “Basecraft” Workshop in Sydney which he shared with a friend. “The shape was sculpted out of a piece of foam, the exact same way you would create a surfboard”. On that he modeled the fiberglass core of the actual chair which he intended to cover with a single sheet of aluminum: “I tried laminating it, but the thing fell apart … Eventually, I came up with the idea of beating little pieces of metal into shape with a wooden mallet and attaching them with rivets.”
This first edition of the chair was exhibited at the “Seating for Six” exhibition in Sydney’s Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery (June 1986) and was, subsequently, purchased, for approximately USD 3.000, by the Art Gallery of South Australia in Adelaide where it is currently exhibited:
But Newson was not satisfied with the backrest of that first chair so he kept working at the Basecraft Workshop and re-editing it over the 1986-1988 period until, 4 Artist’s Proofs and one Prototype Chair later (1988):
… he came up with the revamped and renamed “LOCKHEED LOUNGE” (in homage to the aesthetic of the riveted metallic parts manufactured by LOCKHEED, the American aircraft manufacturer).
This 1988 last iteration of the LOCKHEED LOUNGE was, subsequently, produced in a Limited Edition of 10 during the 1988-1990 period on behalf of POD (Newson’s newly established design company). Only the first piece of the Limited Edition series was handcrafted by Marc Newson himself as “it was so much work” that he promised himself not to do it again.
Actually, as the designer explains, the LOCKHEED LOUNGE was produced in a Limited Edition of 10 not because his intention was to produce a “Limited Edition” but, simply, because it was physically impossible for him to make more. This is, after all, why “Eckhard Reissig took over production from me” for the rest of the pieces, he says (always in the Basecraft workshop – an impression at the underside of each chair reading “Basecraft Sydney” attests to that):
The intriguing part is that, although the chairs were received very well since their first introduction/presentation in the design scene, he originally ended up selling them for just about USD 1.000 each.
Nevertheless, the LOCKHEED LOUNGE soon became widely known and secured a special place in the design and pop-culture realm. In 1990, one of the chairs was chosen by Philippe Starck for the lobby of the classy Paramount Hotel (New York). Another was featured in 1993 in Madonna’s “Rain” video clip (1993 VMA Winner):
With time, some chairs were acquired by private collectors while others for permanent museum collections. In chronological order, they were acquired by the National Gallery of Victoria (Melbourne/Australia), the Powerhouse Museum (Sydney/Australia), the VITRA Design Museum (Weil am Rhein/Germany) and the Carnegie Museum of Art (Pittsburgh, USA).
As a result, their value in auctions started breaking one record after another in the world of contemporary design, especially over the past decade or so: The piece featured in Madonna’s “Rain” video clip was one of the 4 Artist Proofs which preceded the 1988 Edition of 10. It, originally, belonged to the designer’s mother and, since 1999, it was kept in a private collection. Eventually, it was auctioned by Phillips de Pury & Company in London on April 30, 2009 fetching a record-breaking price of GBP 1.105.250 (approximately USD 1,6 million).
The 1988 Prototype chair (the only one with white exposed fiberglass reinforced polyester resin feet, as all other examples have rubber-coated black feet) achieved a new world-record of USD 2.098.500 in a Phillips de Pury & Company auction on May 13, 2010, making it the most expensive piece of contemporary design to this date by a living designer !
Yet another record was broken when one of the LOCKHEED LOUNGE Chairs (specifically No. 10 of the Limited Edition of 10 – with dimensions of 87 x 168.3 x 61.6 cm or 34 1/4 x 66 1/4 x 24 1/4 in.) was sold for the mind-boggling amount of GBP 2.434.500 (i.e. approximately EUROS 3,3 million or USD 3,7 million) during a Phillips auction on April 28, 2015 !
So, the chances for us, mere “mortals”, of getting our hands on one of these chairs are virtually non-existent unless, of course, we opt for the MINIATURE LOCKHEED LOUNGE produced by the VITRA Design Museum (the chair is part of the Museum’s “100 Masterpieces” Collection). After all, this is an exact replica of the “real thing” right down to the last detail (scale 1:6 of the original – Fiberglass, Rubber, Riveted Aluminum Sheets) for less than EUROS 1.000:
Also, for all those living in or around Philadelphia/USA or visiting, they can see the chair live if they pass by the Philadelphia Museum of Artwhere Marc Newson is exhibiting solo (November 23, 2013 – April 20, 2014).
Alternatively, we can “quench our thirst” by watching Marc Newson discussing the LOCKHEED LOUNGE and his work, in general, with Alan Yentob in an excellent 2008 BBC documentary titled ”Marc Newson: Urban Spaceman” under the BBC ‘Imagine’ Series (1/5):
Marc Newson has been described as the most influential designer of his generation. He has worked across a wide range of disciplines, creating everything from furniture and household objects to bicycles and cars, private and commercial aircraft, yachts, various architectural commissions, and signature sculptural pieces for clients across the globe – watch his interview “Designer of Scale: Marc Newson” at TEDxSydney (May 4, 2013) – Copyright: © Marc Newson, TEDxSydney
Born in Sydney, on October 20, 1963, he was brought up by his mother and, during his early years, he was clearly influenced by his Greek maternal grandfather with whom he used to make things in their home garage.
Newson spent much of his childhood travelling in Europe and Asia. He studied Jewelry and Sculpture at the Sydney College of the Arts and started experimenting with furniture design even as a student. After graduation (1984), he was awarded a grant from the Australian Crafts Council with which he staged his first exhibition – featuring the LOCKHEED LOUNGE – a piece that has now, more than twenty-five years later, has set consecutive world records at auction. The same is true as far as Newson’s overall work which, as a result, now accounts for almost 25% of the total contemporary design art market.
Newson has lived and worked in Tokyo, Paris, and London where he is now based, and he continues to travel widely. One of the major milestones in his career is his first solo exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery (New York, 2007).
His clients include a broad range of the best known and most prestigious brands in the world – from manufacturing and technology to transportation, fashion and the luxury goods sector. To list but a few of his household clients’ names: Absolut, Alessi, Apple, Alaia, SAS, B&B Italia, Boucheron, Canon, Cappellini, Corian/Dupont, Davidoff, Dom Perignon, Domeau & Pérès, Flos, Ford Motor Co., Freestream, Gap, Habitat, Heineken, Ideal Standard, Idee, Iittala, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Lanvin, Magis, Maybeline, MHT, Microsoft, Moroso, Motorola, Nestle, Nike, Paco Rabane, Pentax, Ricoh Imaging Company Limited, Qantas Airways, Renault, Ricard, Riva, Samsonite, Shiseido, SMEG, Taschen, Tefal/Groupe Seb, Vidal Sasoon, Vitra, Yves Saint Laurent.
Many of his designs have been a runaway success for his clients and have achieved the status of modern design icons. In addition to his core business, he has also founded and run a number of successful companies, including a fine watch brand and an aerospace design consultancy, and has also held senior management positions at client companies; including currently being the Creative Director of Qantas Airways.
In 2005, Marc Newson was included in Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” and has received numerous awards and distinctions. He was appointed The Royal Designer for Industry in the UK, received an honorary doctorate from Sydney University, holds Adjunct Professorships at Sydney College of the Arts and Hong Kong Polytechnic University and, most recently, was created CBE by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
His work is present in many major museum collections, including the MoMA in New York, London’s Design Museum and V&A, the Centre Georges Pompidou and the VITRA Design Museum.
Newson has been the focus of on-going and intense interest in the media, generating significant editorial value for his clients, and he has been the subject of a number of books and documentary films, the most recent and comprehensive of which is considered to be the Marc Newson – Works Monograph, published by Taschen in 2012:
Sources: www.marc-newson.com, www.design-museum.de, www.bbc.co.uk, www.tedxsydney.com, www.dezeen.com, www.phillips.com, www.louvre.fr, www.taschen.com, www.philamuseum.org, www.gagosian.com, www.mtv.com, www.wired.co.uk
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