Rather than focusing on designers and styles, the new gallery aims to show how furniture was made and decorated. It highlights materials and techniques – or, in curatorial parlance, the ‘materiality’ of furniture. This approach has resulted in unexpected juxtapositions of objects from different periods and even from entirely different cultures.
Regular readers of this blog will be aware of my otaku-like fascination with orientalism, and I was interested to see how this new gallery has brought together radically different examples of the use of lacquer, and its European imitation, japanning.
The emphasis on materiality also presents a contrast with the approach often seen in the display of historic houses, which is centred around provenance and tries to recreate and preserve historical groupings of objects. Interestingly, both approaches can lead to unexpected juxtapositions, but for entirely different reasons.