In his 1993 essay “It’s Hard to Find a Good Lamp,” artist Donald Judd wrote, “If a chair or building is not functional, if it appears to be only art, it is ridiculous.”
This may be true, but Judd’s furniture designs — functional and frills-free to the extreme — still remain the easiest way for collectors to own a work by one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.
“His mantra was not to think of [furniture design] as art because that debased the art, but to think of it as furniture as something that people use that has a requirement of service, which art doesn’t,” says Ryan Williams of W2 Studio in Dallas, the Midwest representative of Judd’s furniture.
“If a chair or building is not functional, if it appears to be only art, it is ridiculous.” — Donald Judd
As Judd’s former New York home and studio space at 101 Spring St. opens to the public for the first time on June 3, it’s the perfect moment to shine the spotlight on this singular artist’s aesthetic, functional or otherwise.
The Dallas Modern Expo at Victory Park this weekend provides a rare opportunity for both art and design aficionados to view — and purchase — his Wintergarden #16/17 Bench and metal Bookshelf #60. Enthusiasts can also order one of the other 28 unique pieces designed by Judd.
Williams says W2 was just granted authorization to represent the collection a year ago through a fortuitous connection with the artist’s daughter, Rainer Judd.
“The furniture line has been produced since the 1970s, but they were looking to branch out a little,” he says. “Rainer and I have a mutual friend and she was coming into Dallas for an art fair, and we were introduced. It worked out timing-wise. There’s a dealer in New York and in Paris, and we’re a new one in Dallas.”
Judd’s wood furniture is made entirely by hand in California, while his metal designs are crafted from painted or anodized aluminum and copper in Switzerland by Lehni AG. Each piece — available in a variety of woods and colors — is uniquely stamped and numbered and retails from around $2,500 for a stair stool to $30,000 for larger items. Since its introduction, the collection has continued to be carefully constructed to Judd’s rigorous standards of quality.
“Each piece we carry is made as it is ordered, and the people that put together the wood furniture are the ones that built it when Judd was alive,” Williams says. “They have to follow his extreme standards.”
Two pieces from the Donald Judd furniture collection are on display and available for purchase at the Dallas Modern Expo, May 17-19. Ryan Williams also lectures on Donald Judd furniture May 18 at 4:30 pm.