George Sowden - Design New York Wednesday, July 29, 2020 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Private collection, Virginia
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Literature

    Emilio Ambasz, ed., The International Design Yearbook 2, New York, 1986, p. 83
    George J. Sowden: Designing 1970-1990, exh. cat., Musées des arts décoratifs, Lyon, 1990, p. 64

  • Catalogue Essay

    In late 1980, a coterie of designers and intellectuals in Milan formed a design collective named Memphis. United by their desire to create objects and spaces that rejected the austerity of modernism, this group ushered in a groundbreaking period of design. British designer George Sowden became a founding member of Memphis and created designs for the group until its dissolution in 1988. Though the present chair was not made for Memphis, Sowden did make it during the height of Memphis’ success, and it reflects some of the same postmodernist tendencies that the group espoused such as unexpected shapes, expressive patterning, and playfulness.

    Sowden worked with an artisan in Italy to produce this chair, using materials readily available in the craftsman’s workshop. The title of the chair is an allusion to the Alhambra, a palace and fortress in Grenada, Spain. Sowden explained that the chair’s form and design do not necessarily reference the Alhambra explicitly, but the name is just “a place [he] admire[s]…only an association with something very special.” Sowden only produced two Alhambra chairs, making the present lot a particularly rare example of the designer’s work.


"Alhambra" armchair

Walnut-veneered wood, stained ash, laminated wood.
37 1/4 x 19 1/4 x 21 3/4 in. (94.6 x 48.9 x 55.2 cm)
Executed by Pierluigi Ghianda, Brianza, Italy. Number 1 from the edition of 2. Underside painted George J Sowden/MILANO/1985 / 1986 and 1 / 2.

$4,000 - 6,000 

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New York Auction 29 July 2020