The Fetishistic Furniture Sculpture of British Pop Artist Allen Jones
With the fetish film of 50 Shades of Gray being released this weekend, it is a good time to revisit the way out furniture of pop artist, Allen Jones.
The art market was bowled off last year when Sotheby’s sold three fetishistic furniture sculptures (Hatstand, Table, and Chair) pictured above, by British Pop artist Allen Jones, estimated at £90,000 to £120,000, for £2.6 million. The Sixties pieces had come from the late millionaire Gunter Sachs. Allen made these in editions of six. Christie’s had the Hatstand, 1969 for sale the following month. The pieces were created in 1969 and first exhibited in 1970.
The three pieces of women transformed into items of furniture were constructed in painted fiber glass, resin, mixed media, glass, Plexiglas and tailor made accessories They are each dressed with wigs, and are naked apart from their corsets, gloves and leather boots. Each is slightly larger than life-size and therefore not life casts as some have assumed.
Jones grew out of the wave of Pop art that was growing across Britain and the United States during the ‘Swinging Sixties’. Schooled by Richard Hamilton at the Royal College of Art, he was one of a new generation of British artists including David Hockney challenging conventions and embracing their sexuality.
Though Jones was a painter earlier in his long career, he felt unable to adequately recreate womanly curves on a flat canvas, so he turned to sculpture, using non-traditional materials.
At the time of his 70th birthday Jones gave an explanation of his motives for creating the sculptures:
"I was living in Chelsea and I had an interest in the female figure and the sexual charge that comes from it. Every Saturday on the Kings Road you went out and skirts were shorter, the body was being displayed in some new way. And you knew that the following week somebody would up the ante. I was reflecting on and commenting on exactly the same situation that was the source of the feminist movement. It was unfortunate for me that I produced the perfect image for them to show how women were being objectified."[
The sculptures were exhibited in 1970 and met with an outcry from feminists, who objected to women being made into items of furniture. The Guardian newspaper suggested the works should be banned from exhibition. Spare Rib magazine suggested the sculptures showed that Jones was terrified of women.
According to art historian and curator, Marco Livingstone, writing in 2004:
"More than three decades later, these works still carry a powerful emotive charge, ensnaring every viewer's psychology and sexual outlook regardless of age, gender or experience. But a few moments of reflection should make it obvious that these works are manifestations of fantasy and the imagination, and that they poke fun at male expectations.