Powell mentions the chairs three times, so they caught our attention. In Barnabas Henderson’s art gallery, Jenkins sits down in the small cluttered basement office. “I chose an armchair of somewhat exotic design of which there were two [HSH 238-239/257].” Soon Bithel arrived and “deposited in the other exotic armchair [HSH 244/263].” Then, a few pages later, the punch line: “Bithel lay back, so far as doing so were possible, in the pop-art armchair. [HSH 248/267].” There is actually a fourth mention a couple of pages on.
Henderson, who monetizes old paintings and cares nothing for their history or aesthetics, furnishes his private space with the latest kitsch. Pop Art evolved in the 1950s and 1960s not only with the work of Americans like Andy Warhol, Roy Lichenstein, Claes Oldenburg, and James Rosenquist but also with a British contingent, drawing images from and contributing images to popular culture.
The “arm” chair at left by Allen Jones, a British Pop artist, has its limbs in nontraditional locations, but we show it as our first example because it illustrates the debt of Pop Art to Dada and Surrealism. In the 1950s some of the pioneers of Pop, like Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, were called Neo-Dadists. Powell (1971) wrote about the connection in one his reviews, seeing the Surrealist Magritte, in particular, as a forefather of Pop.
We examined many Pop Art chairs; see, for examples, 15 Most Bonkers Chairs at Pop Art Design in London. Our nomination for Henderson’s chair is the Up 5 Lounge Chair by Gaetano Pesce in classic Pop Art red. Pesce described the chair as “a female figure tied to a ball shaped ottoman symbolizing the shackles that keep women subjugated.”
The Pop artists successfully blurred the distinction between kitsch and high art. Now, Pop is a museum staple. In 2013-4 the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Copenhagen, the Barbican in London, the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, and the Vitra Design Museum in Weil Am Rhein, Germany collaborated on an exhibit called Pop Art Design. If Barnabas Henderson were alive today, he would dust off those chairs, bring them up from the basement, and try to sell them for a pretty penny. We recently saw a yellow version of Pesce’s Up 5 Lounge Chair, somewhat worse for wear, offered on 1stdibs for $4223 (accessed 12/16/2016).