Form Over Function
Bloomberg Businessweek|October 05, 2020
Form Over Function
Treating furniture like contemporary art has fueled a boom in collectible design.
James Tarmy

For those who believe a chair is simply for sitting, the idea that furniture can be “editioned” might come as a surprise. After all, a couch is just wood, fabric, and stuffing—why not make a million of them?

Dealer Marc Benda takes a different view. At Friedman Benda, the New York gallery he co-founded in 2006 with Barry Friedman, he specializes in furniture and objects that can be made only a few times at the very most. Over the years he’s sold an almost 6-foot-high bronze and rubber rocking horse from Dutch designer Marcel Wanders; mirrors from American sculptor Misha Kahn made from automotive paint and resin; and chairs by the Japanese studio Nendo that are constructed out of the paper Issey Miyake uses to make his famous pleats.

“The determination if something remains unique or an edition, or is not limited at all, is mostly dictated by the materials,” Benda says. “We have a golden rule at the gallery: We don’t limit an edition if it’s perfectly possible to make it in large batches. So we don’t just take an industrial product and slap some gold on it and call it a limited edition.”

In fact, when he begins to work with a designer on a piece, he never starts with how many the designer will make. “Edition size, pricing, marketing—all the front-end most people see is not discussed for the first, let’s say, 80% of the dialogue and the making of the piece,” he says. “It’s really something that comes later.”

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October 05, 2020