This Chair Was Designed for a Futuristic Tribal Utopia

Joep van Lieshout’s Liberty Lounger for Moooi is less outrageous, but no less imaginative, than his other work.

At Germany’s annual Ruhrtriennale arts festival in 2015, Joep van Lieshout presented a series of monumental sculptures called “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” The title describes the Rotterdam-based artist’s oeuvre well: Since founding his practice in 1995, van Lieshout has made buildings, furniture, and sculpture that typically take outrageous forms—like the gigantic decapitated human heads and digestive system–shaped mobile bar (including a tongue, large intestine, and “exit door”) included in the display. Another work, a towering crimson structure that resembles a man copulating with a four-legged animal, made headlines last fall when the Louvre abruptly scrapped plans to present it, concerned the work might be “misunderstood” by visitors.

But not everything van Lieshout does is rooted in scandal. Interested in the connection between creation and destruction, and the various responses destruction elicits, van Lieshout often devotes several years to a certain theme—a conceptual utopian or dystopian world—and creates physical objects to fill it with. From 2010 to 2015 he worked on things for “New Tribal Labyrinth,” a futuristic place where inhabitants organize themselves in tribes and embrace agriculture and industry. Part of the project was an exercise called “Prototypes,” in which the artist designed one chair a day for the fictional community, for one month straight. He sketched and built each piece by hand without the aid of measuring tools, using intuition as his guide.

The Liberty Lounger was among the first of these seats, and was introduced during this year’s Salone del Mobile by Dutch furniture company Moooi in its Museum of Extinct Animals, an installation featuring drawings of imaginary beasts that informed the brand’s latest collection. Made of solid oiled walnut, the angular edges are intentionally left raw and imperfect, referencing the instinctive way it was originally devised. Liberty comes with a shaggy sheepskin throw, whose black-and-brown hue resembles that of the leaf-like appendages of an alien-like creature Moooi dubbed the “blooming sea dragon”—who’d be at home in any of van Lieshout’s real or imagined realms.  

(Opening photo: Andrew Meredith. Other photos: Courtesy Moooi)

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