Max Lamb’s Chairs Take a Seat at the Art Institute of Chicago

The designer’s first-ever museum show opens next month and will feature one never-before-seen project.

The making-of and final result of a chair in Max Lamb's new "Forge" series, which he made in a steel mill just north of Chicago. (Photos, from left: Max Lamb, Monica Marek)

A 98-foot ash tree? Turn it into some chairs. Molten pewter? Chairs. A 600-pound chunk of steel or raw marble? Heavy chairs. Polystyrene foam? Sit on it. With the seat as a common denominator, British designer Max Lamb has been experimenting with form, materials, and techniques since he graduated London’s Royal College of Art, in 2006. The Art Institute of Chicago will host Lamb’s first-ever museum show opening March 22, called “Max Lamb: Exercises in Seating.” (It’s a title he’s familiar with: it first appeared as the name of his degree show, and a handful of other exhibitions since.) Zoë Ryan curated the AIC’s edit of his work, which will include 19 pieces and one new project, “Forge.” For this chair, Lamb hammered out billets of raw steel at a mill just north of Chicago. “I wanted to have a relationship with Chicago [that was] deeper and greater than just having a show there,” the 37-year-old says from his studio in London. “I didn’t want to just show up with twenty chairs saying, ‘Hey, here’s my work!’” Lamb has gained recognition and favor in the international design community for his always-experimental approach and for not taking himself too seriously. “The work is really about the exercise: what’s involved in getting to that end result—whatever that end result is,” he says. “It’s the process that’s most important.”

A chunk of steel that would eventually find itself as part of Lamb's "Forge" series. (Photo: Max Lamb)
“Tokonoma” stool prototypes. (Photo: Max Lamb, courtesy Art Institute of Chicago)
“My Grandfather’s Tree” chair in progress. (Photo: Max Lamb, courtesy Art Institute of Chicago)
“Lost Wax” ceramic stool, in progress. (Photo: Max Lamb, courtesy Art Institute of Chicago)
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