In a 1964 interview, Mexican artist and designer Pedro Friedeberg declared his certainty that "very soon now humanity will arrive at a marvelous epoch totally devoid of Knoll chairs or Danish coffee tables, and the obscenity of Japanese rock gardens five thousand miles from Kyoto." His most famous creation, the sculptural Hand Chair stands testament to his stance against the impersonal geometries of international style modernism, which dominated civic architecture in mid-twentieth century Mexico. Friedeberg designed the original Hand Chair in the early 1960s, employing master carpenter José González to carve the first example from mahogany. Though the artist had conceived the piece as a unique sculpture, the witty form, with its elegantly long fingers, quickly garnered attention. He received orders from artistic clients in Mexico and abroad, among them celebrities such as Yul Brynner and Roman Polanski. He developed many iterations, altering the color (from untreated wood to gold and silver leaf to black, white or red paint) and form (from a conical base to a large foot or several smaller feet). A regular fixture in fashionable shelter magazines, the chair has spawned countless copies.
Staci Steinberger, Assistant Curator, Decorative Arts and Design