“Chair” – Guillermo Cardenas
(1)Christine Keeler 1963, by Lewis Morley
(2) Keeler chair
(4) "Stacking chairs: 3107", Arne Jacobsen
(5) “Chair” caption
The Keeler chair (2) is a slightly modified copy of Arne Jacobsen’s 3107 chair (4) that was used in the photoshoot of Christine Keeler at the height of the revelations of the ‘Profumo Affair’. The Profumo Affair was the first tabloid of this kind that earned a place on newspapers due to the shocking involvement of sex, a Russian spy, and the secretary of state for war, what maximized the popularity of Jacobsen’s design within the markets and the people. The chair where Keeler posed had been made in 1962, using moulded plywood, and bent tubular steel; it was bought from Heal’s London by Lewis Morley, the artist who took the famous picture; and finally, it was donated to the V&A museum by the photographer and Dr and Mrs. John V. Knaus.
The V&A says in an article: “the V&A had to be the perfect place for the [Keeler] chair for two reasons: because it has great collections of both photography and furniture, and because the chair is a British cultural icon.” Being just a bad quality copy of the 3107 chair that has been loaded with historical and political connotations, the end product becomes a pretext to tell a story. Design becomes a story, history. “It is touching, somehow, that the perfect photograph was posed in a flawed chair and that both are now in the Museum.” Says the same article.
The “Chair” flipped against the viewer (3), imitating the position of the one in the Keeler’s portrait right above (1) is claimed to be the Keeler chair. The caption (5) assures: “[…] The photographer Lewis Morley bought it in 1962 and used it in his portrait of Christine Keeler.” However, it is clearly not. The one in the famous photograph has a slot that has been cut for use as a handle whereas the one exhibited there is a real 3107 chair.
Without any notification or further reference, an object similar enough to go unnoticed by the visitors has been placed in the space reserved for the “Keeler chair”. In this case, the voice of the museum doesn’t seem to be taking seriously the visitor nor the real specimen. This object seems to be a mere opportunity for them to show that the V&A owns that part of our history and that we have to believe it even if we can’t see the real specimen. Even though the physicality of the Keeler chair can be considered a simple pretext to tell a part of our history, a real specimen in a museum should never be disrespected in such a way nor the visitor.
References & Bibliography:
The SCANDAL Story – film & actual events (interviewees incl. Christine Keeler + film cast/crew)