Salone del Mobile Milano

Happy Birthday, Panton Chair!

Notching up 50 years without even feeling it. In any case, as everyone knows, icons never grow old, they retain all their allure and glamour. Half a century, then: one of the most famous chairs in contemporary design, the Panton Chair, has reached this great milestone. 

Ideally conceived in the late Fifties by Verner Panton and developed in the early Sixties by Vitra, the chair made its debut at the Cologne fair in 1968 and has, since then, held its own against changing tastes and passing fashions, to become a cult object par excellence in the collective imagination. The kind that is recognised by its shape rather than by its designer or the brand that produces it. It is a perfect synthesis of form and function, an extraordinary example of how a product design that has gone into serial production can still give the impression of being a one-off, a limited edition at most. The Panton Chair has also managed to create its own scandal: designed to cling to the lines of the body, it was chosen by the British magazine Nova in 1971 to co-star with Amanda Lear in an original piece entitled How to undress in front of your husband.

Much loved and much copied, revisited by artists and designers, and also available in a children’s version, the very first Panton Chair was produced in polyester reinforced with fibreglass to make it self-supporting, followed by polystyrene foam and injection-moulded Luran S. It wasn’t until 1991 that the production process set out in the guidelines drawn up by the designer could be achieved. The chair then went through several more production cycles before the current, more inexpensive version, in injection-moulded totally recyclable polypropylene, was produced.   

In order to celebrate it to the full, Vitra has come up with two original versions that pay homage to the insight of its creator: Panton Chrome and Panton Glow. The former celebrates Verner Panton’s great passion for reflective surfaces. During the early Seventies he had explored the possibility of producing the Panton Chair with a mirrored surface, which could not be achieved at the time due to technical limitations. The latter is inspired by the 1970 Visiona 2 installation, in which the walls and ceilings appeared to be lit from inside. This edition was created in partnership with Marianne Panton, Verner’s wife, and was produced using a process in which five layers of varnish containing phosphorescent pigments are applied to the frame by hand and sealed with a shiny protective covering. The result? The chair absorbs the sunlight during the day and in the dark gives off a blue glow!