Sadly this post is very much a case of shutting the gate after the horse has bolted. The charity auction to help raise funds for French arts organisation, La Source, was held back in December of 2014, so none of these works can be bid on or purchased but as a way of showing the extraordinary diversity of ideas that are possible - even on something as a simple as a plywood stool - makes the post event assessment of the designs worthwhile. Yanagi himself sadly died in 2011 at the ripe old age of 96. Probably the most influential Japanese furniture designer of the last century, he was Charlotte Perriand's personal assistant while she lived in Japan in 1940-41. He subsequently designed several hundred domestic objects and furniture pieces over his 60 year career and while the 'Butterfly' stool is undoubtedly the most well-known of his designs, Vitra also has his plastic 'Elephant' stool in production and his kettle and cutlery are regarded as classics of twentieth century design.
La Source is an organisation that promotes the social benefits of art – particularly for children. Supported by Vitra for the last four years, the event has attracted large numbers of creatives who have donated their time to add their personal stamp on some of Vitra's classic pieces - Panton's 'S' chair in 2011, the Bouroullec's 'Metal table' in 2012 and Jean Prouve's 'Standard' chair in 2013. In 2014 Vitra supplied 50 Sori Yanagi Butterfly stools to as many designers, artists and architects. With the crème de la crème of the French art, fashion and design scene taking part, including Matali Crasett, Christian Ghion, Christian Louboutin, Yazid Oulab and Philippe Starck, the event presented an amazing array of interpretations of the classic stool with its lyrical pair of moulded plywood ‘wings’.
Some painted, others decorated with feathers and felt or cut their stool to ribbons. As you might have guessed, I was more attracted to the subtle solution presented by Jasper Morrison (the only non-French creative involved) who perforated his 'Butterfly' chair but retained it’s totally unique and beautiful shape.
Architect and designer, India Mahdavi’s subdued colour palette was also gorgeous but the tribal mask interpretation by Guillaume Delvigne stood out as one of the most original. Using just one wing of the original stool and it's fine brass stretcher, the designer has painted what could be considered as either a comic cartoon face or a abstracted tribal mask depending on your view. Delvigne like many of the other artists and designers involved in the 2014 auction, has presented a design each year for the last four years and although each attempt has been very different in style I am pleased to say they have all been equally wonderful.
Even more extreme was the voodoo-like creation of Matthieu Mercier. The artist has cut crude holes for a face with strange spiked hair and snaggle toothed mouths. The result has the look of something a witch doctor from the swamps of Louisiana might dig out of their bag and is unnervingly macabre.
Matali Crasset took her usual subversive view turning the stool upside down and filling the void with an orange plastic cushion. I'm not sure I understand Crasset's intention here but like Bachelot Caron who wore their 'Butterfly' stools like mad headdresses, it only underlines the range of interpretations. It may just been an off the cuff the idea but Jean Michel Wilmotte's stretched interpretation could well have had a deeper meaning, taking the diminutive 'Butterfly' stool and turning it into a concrete bench seat capable of encapsulating a 21st century super-sized butt. Or it could just be a pleasing mix of contrasting materials. Who knows?
The last of my particular favourites is by Parisian graphic designers, Antoine et Manuel. Their beautifully painted tonal butterfly wings recreate the idea behind the book-matched grain pattern found on the stool. The painted surfaces transition from the outer to inner surface of the plywood as it goes through the central joining point.
The gallery below is a collection of many of the other interpretations on show. To view the entire fifty versions that were created please go to the La Source website by clicking here.
The fifty designers that took part were:
AK-LH - Antoine et Manuel - Bachelot Caron - Sam Baron - Katia Bourdarel - Erwan et Ronan Bouroullec - Jean-Charles de Castelbajac - Gaëlle Chotard - Claudio Colucci - Matali Crasset - Nicolas Darrot - Odile Decq - Guillaume Delvigne - Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance - Ensaders - Franck Evennou - Claire Fanjul - Edouard François - Olivier Gagnère - Quentin Garel - Elizabeth Garouste - Gérard Garouste - Christian Ghion - Eric Gizard - Pascal Humbert - Patrick Jouin - Sarah Lavoine - Hubert Le Gall - Mathieu Lehanneur - Jean-François Lesage - Christian Louboutin - India Mahdavi - Olivier Masmonteil - Mathieu Mercier - Bruno Moinard - Jasper Morrison - Yazid Oulab - Rero - Éric Robin - Inga Sempé - Robert Stadler - Ara Starck - Philippe Starck - Claire Tabouret - Tsé & Tsé - Hervé van der Straeten - Fabien Verschaere - Jean-Michel Wilmotte - Pierre Yovanovitch - Charles Zana
All photography by Hugo Miserey except the Bachelot Caron image above which is a self-portrait.
The 2014 auction raised 108,700 Euros for La Source.