Verner Panton

FIVE YEARS AGO I was having lunch at a friend's place in New York. There against a wall was a lovely curvy white molded plastic chair, which I grabbed to sit on. My friend fairly lunged at me, yanked it away, and said, “No! It may look great, but the damn thing's turning to dust. I had one of them shatter just last week.”

By the time Verner Panton's stacking chair was unveiled in 1967, other designers, most famously Charles and Ray Eames and Eero Saarinen, had tried and failed to produce a one-piece plastic prototype. It took Panton nine years, but he was the first to succeed, and the now-iconic Panton Chair remains his seminal work.

Back before the mid-'90s neo-modernist revival, the Panton Chair conferred an aura on its surroundings that was at once rare, expensive, delicate, and privileged, at the same time marking its owner as an educated and finicky soul, patiently willing to deal with

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