On The Road: Sitting Pretty At Belsay Hall

By Beth Milne | 16 July 2002

Left: Chair #1, Ansel Thompson.

Beth Milne explored the seated splendour of Belsay Hall

There is certainly no lack of seats to rest your legs on at the Sitting Pretty exhibition at Belsay Hall until 28 August.

The collection of contemporary chair designs has transformed the vast emptiness of the 19th century Greek revival mansion into an interactive playground in an unusual if not historic setting.

Seats range from the elegant and stylish to the bold and colourful created by some of the world's most innovative designers such as David Linley, Eley Kishimoto, Claudio Silvestrin and Karim Rashid.

Many of the exhibits are a cross between sculpture and practical seating design and visitors are invited to touch, feel and, of course, sit or even lie on the exhibits.

Right: Aksi Chair, Jyri Kermik.

"Sitting is the most natural human form and has been the inspiration for creative minds throughout the centuries," explained Dr Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage.

"Sitting Pretty is an exhibition which shows that this preoccupation continues today and demonstrates a new development in blurring the boundaries between seating and sculpture."

One of the highlights of the show is the Aston Chair and Footstool designed by David Linley. It is a 21st century interpretation of a gentleman's club chair and its luxurious, racy image evokes connections with the comfort and shape of the upholstery in an Aston Martin.

Walking up the back steps from the gardens it takes a second glance to notice the circle of seven animals on the back lawn of the house. It is actually a flock of sheep "grazing" created by wowdesigners.

Left: Butterfly Chair, Byron Miller.

The front two sheep have holes in the top of them but it's hard to figure out what they are for. Maybe they are extremely large salt and peppershakers? Flower holders? Maybe if you hook them up to a pipe it becomes a fountain?

Perhaps, however, the most beautiful and inspirational seat in the exhibition is "Chair #1" by Ansel Thompson.

The flowing and ever changing hues of the fibre optic seat shaped like a wave gives off a tranquil, soothing atmosphere to the darkened room. As one visitor stated, "it is a worthy ornament for anyone's home".

"BOO!" coloured pod stools by Totem Design, which light up when sat upon are a big hit with children, who seem compelled to jump up and down on the seats making patterns with the lights. It's almost like an activity centre with a sixties psychedelic funky feel.

Right: Aksi Chair, Jyri Kermik.

Not too far away in the Drawing Room is Eley Kishimoto's "Ropey Modular Sofa", which is covered in one of their latest catwalk designs and can accommodate up to fifty people.

The gardens are not to be missed with over thirty beautiful acres designed by Charles Monck who also built Belsay Hall. The exhibition is part of an ongoing partnership between English Heritage and Northern Arts, which began in 1996.

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
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