Gerrit Thomas Rietveld - Design New York Tuesday, December 7, 2021 | Phillips
  • In the November 1935 issue of Dutch architecture magazine Bouwkundig Weekblad Architectura, Gerrit Rietveld wrote, “A piece of furniture made of fine wood and made purely by hand is sent in a crate to protect it against damage and breakage. Someone who receives such a package at home says at most: well packed. But it had never been established that such a crate represents a free carpentry method that goes straight to the target. With the sober means with which it is composed, it is stronger than its noble content.” The idea that a wooden packing crate could represent the pinnacle of furniture production is an extremely bold statement that aligns with the designer’s avant-garde design approach. 


    Advertisement for Gerrit Rietveld’s “Crate” furniture, circa 1934.

    As the name alludes, the Crate chair was made from the same wood as that used to construct wooden shipping crates. The sizes of the wood planks used to create these chairs were standard sizes found in lumber mills. The chair arrived to buyers flat and disassembled. The department store Metz marketed this line of furniture—which also included a taller chair, a desk, two small tables, and a bookcase—as ideal furnishings for weekend homes and children’s rooms. This series took inspiration from the simplified construction method of military furniture and also represents the designer’s interest in systemization and egalitarian design. Aesthetically, they reflect Rietveld’s desire to create furniture that is highly geometric and planar in form. 

    The present pair of armchairs is a particularly significant example, as it was originally given by the designer to his daughter Vrouwgien Noppen-Rietveld around 1945 and was later given to Anne Marie Francine Noppen, Reitveld’s granddaughter. 

    • Provenance

      Vrouwgien Noppen-Rietveld, gifted to her by her father, Gerrit Thomas Rietveld, circa 1945
      Thence by descent to Anne Marie Francine Noppen (granddaughter of the architect)
      Christie's, Amsterdam, "20th Century Decorative Arts," May 23, 2007, lot 300
      Acquired from the above
      Sotheby's, New York, "Luxe: Art of Design," April 22, 2018, lot 1477
      Private collection, New York
      Wright, Chicago, "Design including Post War + Contemporary Art," October 25, 2018, lot 209
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Literature

      Daniele Baroni, The Furniture of Gerrit Thomas Rietveld, Woodbury, 1977, pp. 140, 143, 146-47
      Peter Vöge, The Complete Rietveld Furniture, Rotterdam, 1993, pp. 15, 23, 89
      Petra Timmer, Metz & Co., Rotterdam, 1995, pp. 104, 112
      Ida van Zijl, Gerrit Rietveld, New York, 2010, p. 138

    • Artist Biography

      Gerrit Thomas Rietveld

      Dutch • 1888 - 1964

      Gerrit Thomas Rietveld began as an apprentice in his father's cabinetmaking workshop, going on to train and work as a draftsman. In 1917 he started his own furniture-making workshop in Utrecht. Positive critical review by Theo van Doesburg in his journal De Stijl resulted in near-instantaneous influence on broader developments in European modernism. This connection to the De Stijl movement also inspired him to introduce color to the posts, rails and terminals of his furniture. His resulting "Red-blue" armchair is among the most iconic chair designs of the twentieth century.

      From the beginning, Rietveld embraced modernist principles of functionalism, simplicity of form and mass-production, and eventually moved away from De Stijl to become a member of the Congrès Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne (CIAM). Rietveld worked through the post-war years, completing a number of private residences, housing developments and institutions. He continued to design furniture for these commissions as well as for retailers like Metz & Co.

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Property from a Private Collection, Canada


Pair of "Crate" chairs

designed circa 1934, executed circa 1945
Painted wood.
Each: 23 1/2 x 22 1/2 x 28 3/4 in. (59.7 x 57.2 x 73 cm)
Produced by Metz, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Full Cataloguing

$10,000 - 15,000 

Sold for $17,640

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New York Auction 7 December 2021