Donald Judd: Furniture

by | 05. Sep 2012

Exhibitions and Events

Image courtesy the Judd FoundationChairs #84/5, Finland Color PlywoodBlack, Green, Yellow, Red, Light and Dark Brown.

I am often asked if the furniture is art, since almost ten years ago some artists made art that was also furniture. The furniture is furniture and is only art in that architecture, ceramics, textiles and many things are art.
/Donald Judd

Organized in collaboration with the Judd Foundation the exhibition shows important early examples of Judd’s furniture in a variety of woods, colored-plywood, enameled aluminum and copper, alongside his original drawings.


Image courtesy the Judd FoundationChair with Shelf, Chair and Corner Chair #72, Oak.

Donald Judd revolutionized practices and attitudes surrounding art making and the exhibition of art. The reluctant icon of Minimalism, he is considered one of the most important American artists of the post-war era and his artwork is revered in museums worldwide. Yet it remains little known that from around 1970 until his death in 1994, Donald Judd designed furniture.

Amongst the earliest examples were a double-sided bed and two desks in pine that, driven by an apparent lack of suitable alternatives for sale in Marfa, he designed and built for his two children, Rainer and Flavin. Simply constructed of unaltered lumberyard pine planks nailed together, these were some of the only furniture pieces Judd ever made himself, but the basic forms he experimented with here would inform the designs that he later put into limited production.

Following these, Judd continued to design furniture for his own use, though would henceforth outsource the fabrication. The purity of form inherent to his designs however would require complex structural solutions that proved difficult to find. Early examples of the highest craftsmanship exhibiting exquisite dovetailing were considered by the artist to be unsuccessful, the permanent visual presence of the maker ultimately detracting from the object’s clarity of form. The concealed resolution he would go on to find is in its apparent simplicity a masterwork of modern cabinet making.


Image courtesy the Judd FoundationDesk Set #33, Black Walnut.


Image courtesy the Judd FoundationWintergarden Bench #16/17, Douglas Fir.


Image courtesy the Judd FoundationBookshelf #34, Douglas Fir.

In the early 1980s, Judd began designing furniture in sheet metal and copper, the first of his designs that he was to produce with the intent to sell. Working then with the Swiss firm Lehni he developed 18 individual aluminum pieces that would be produced in 20 enameled colors, clear anodized aluminum and copper. These designs in metal, like those in wood, are still produced by the same craftsmen today under license from Judd Foundation.


Image courtesy the Judd FoundationBookshelf #60, Enamel on Aluminium, Red.


Image courtesy the Judd FoundationDonald Judd, Armchair #47, Copper.

Aware of the shared language of form and materials across his work, Judd was clear of the distinction between his furniture and his art.

The configuration and the scale of art cannot be transposed into furniture and architecture. The intent of art is different from that of the latter, which must be functional. If a chair or a building is not functional, if it appears to be only art, it is ridiculous.
/Donald Judd, 1993

The Sebastian + Barquet Gallery and Showroom was designed by Enrique Norten TEN Arquitectos.

The two separate spaces form a shared identity, even though they are located in separate buildings, distanced one block from each other. The gallery’s design brings the logic of the curtain wall and the glass storefront to the inside. The raw, industrial spaces of the galleries are sheathed in a second skin of glass, forming a barrier and cavity space between the glass and the wall, into which the objects are placed.


Photo courtesy TEN Arquitectos


Photo courtesy TEN Arquitectos

The upper gallery, which is considerably larger, also houses a fully-enclosed glass box that inhabits the middle of the floor like an aquarium, and contains additional pieces of the collection. The box is slightly raised, giving it the feeling of hovering slightly off of the ground, just as the glass facades hover away from the surface of the walls. An extrusion from its surface creates a desk for a gallery attendant.


Photo courtesy TEN Arquitectos


Photo courtesy TEN Arquitectos


CITY New York, New York