Art comes out of the closet

THE art of furniture design is on show at Turner Gallery in Northbridge with some of Australia’s most famous names literally on seats, sideboards and tables.

It’s a rare chance to enjoy the innovative creation of mid-century Australian designers such as Grant Featherston and Clement Meadmore, along with Danish designers Peter Hvidt and Orla Molgaaard-Nielsen (whose chair featured in Don Draper’s office in Mad Men), Gerard Chipper says.

Chipper runs Artepodean on Stirling Street, Perth, restoring period pieces from the 1920s to the 1950s, along with importing high end new pieces made under licence. He jumped at the chance to raise the profile of vintage furniture as art, after being approached by Turner Gallery’s Helen Turner.

In the exhibition are Meadmore’s signature sling chair and a Featherston contour lounge chair, along with other pieces, most restored by Chipper.

Neither designer has really gone out of style, he says, so much so that China makes cheap rip-offs.

“Featherston is copied aggressively by the Chinese market,” he sniffs, disapprovingly.

Quality pieces hold their value, and people downsizing are discovering they can recoup costs as interest in the sleek lines of the period attract a new generation of admirers.

• EMMY-award winning actor Greta Scacchi is back on home turf, playing the lead role in Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull at the State Theatre. But be quick—the last show is today, Saturday August 30. Sumptuous sets, and gorgeous gowns add to the allure of this period piece, written in 1895. While it’s not as dark as most of the Russian playwright’s work, the occasional laughter in the first act is gone by the time the curtain falls on this “slice-of-life” drama set in the Russian countryside.

• EMMY-award winning actor Greta Scacchi is back on home turf, playing the lead role in Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull at the State Theatre. But be quick—the last show is today, Saturday August 30. Sumptuous sets, and gorgeous gowns add to the allure of this period piece, written in 1895. While it’s not as dark as most of the Russian playwright’s work, the occasional laughter in the first act is gone by the time the curtain falls on this “slice-of-life” drama set in the Russian countryside.

“A lot are collectors, and they want to be surrounded by furniture that reflects that. This is how art can be lived everyday,” Chipper says.

Hailing from “isolated” Perth he travels the length and breath of Australia seeking out vintage pieces by artists virtually unknown to the broader population.

Post-second world war was a spur to innovative furniture design in Australia, as new materials became available, kicked along by an influx of European migrants skilled in fine furniture-making.

A recent exhibition of Australia furniture at the Victorian state gallery attracted a swag of interest, helping fuel a revived interest in the likes of Featherston and Meadmore.

But the fine art market in Perth is a tough gig, with many galleries closing, and Chipper is hoping this exhibition will raise the profile of furniture as art.

“Our exhibition is a small attempt to do something.”

Accompanying the furniture will be contemporary artworks by Abdul Abdullah, Marcel Cousins, Kyle Hughes-Odgers and Trevor Richards.

It’s on until September 27 at Turner Gallery, 470 William Street, Northbridge, open Tues–Sat 11am–5pm.

by JENNY D’ANGER

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