Jeroen Verhoeven - Design London Wednesday, April 29, 2009 | Phillips

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  • Literature

    Gareth Williams, The Furniture Machine: Furniture Since 1990, London, 2006, front and back covers and pp. 110-111; Tom Dixon, et al., eds, &Fork, New York, 2007, p. 123; Sarah D. Coffin, et al., eds, Rococo: The Continuing Curve, 1730-2008, New York, 2008, p. 273

  • Catalogue Essay

    Like a comely maid, ‘Cinderella’ steps from under the folds of her rival older sisters. Dutch designer Jeroen Verhoeven’s now-celebrated beauty derives from the silhouettes of two 18th-century works, what appears to be a bombé commode with serpentine sides and a console with shaped apron above cabriole legs. But as in Charles Perrault’s 1697 fable, ‘Cinderella’ is cut from a different cloth, birch plywood to be precise. Her stepsisters would have flaunted thin veneers over less noble woods. Here, beauty is more than skin deep. Verhoeven uses humble ply—CNC-cut, bonded, and finished by hand—to exquisite effect, inside and out (the insides are in fact outside). Like its namesake, the table hides no unpleasant traits, no awkward joints, no declensions of spirit.
    ‘Cinderella’ appeared last year in the Cooper-Hewitt’s survey Rococo: The Continuing Curve, 1730-2008, a celebration of the period, its revivals, and its ongoing influence. Beyond the direct inspiration of 18th-century furniture, the table’s energetic curves recall the convolutions of rococo, a style unapologetic in its appeal to surface decoration and exuberance, like the shell motifs and fluid asymmetry of a Meissonier tureen, or the cresting wave handles on Sèvres tableware. But Verhoeven references the innovations of later centuries too, both 19th-century bentwood furniture and 20th-century Modernism’s elevation of technology and everyday materials. Verhoeven’s use of plywood and computer numerical control technology is heir to the radical 1930s inventions of Alvar Aalto and Gerald Summers (the Cooper-Hewitt included birch plywood chairs by both designers). To borrow from Ellen Lupton, one of the show’s curators, Verhoeven is both “abstract and referential”, in keeping with contemporary fashion. Beyond that, his table is evidence of the timeless human aspiration for beauty and pleasure, an unbroken spell.
    ‘Cinderella’ table is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and the Victoria and Albert Museum.


Rare ‘Cinderella’ table


CNC-cut birch plywood.

80 x 132.1 x 101.6 cm. (31 1/2 x 52 x 40 in.)

Manufactured by Id Productions for Demakersvan, The Netherlands. From an edition of 20.

£80,000 - 120,000 Ω ♠


30 Apr 2009, 2pm