Spanish artist Máximo Riera’s Animal Chairs are simultaneously intimidating and beautiful. The rhinoceros seems about to draw breath, the octopus to scuttle away, the whale’s tale to splash back into the sea. There is a liveliness that exudes from them, yet from a different angle, you discover that the animal in question is simply a functional work of art: one part of an unmoving chair.
Having begun work on the collection seven years ago, Riera first unveiled the Octopus Chair at London Design Week in 2010. The inspiration to fuse animals and furniture came from his desire to combine two of his greatest passions: nature and art. “I [had] the intention of creating something new and different,” says Riera. “Art always has to break boundaries … [These] days that means you have to take risks. This is the key to art evolving.”
The collection itself has evolved too. The first editions were produced in black, but once they sold out, Riera chose to delve deeper. Wanting to remain faithful to the animal’s physique and scale, his new editions enhance the lifelike nature of the work by using the natural tones of the animals’ skin in cracks, folds, and creases. Riera accomplishes this detailing by using 3-D computer generated software (computer numerical control) to turn his sketches into three-dimensional digital images. They are then fed into a computer to be reproduced as compressed foam blocks of high density polyurethane. Each part is then assembled, glued, sanded, and painted by hand. Each piece takes an average of 450 hours to produce and requires the assistance of more than 30 technical professionals from companies such as Ferrari and Chanel.
“My intention is to bring the animal kingdom to the urban world,” says the artist, “to create awareness [for] something we are all losing empathy with.” The majesty of these animals combined with what Riera refers to as the “common and banal” qualities of a chair brings an approachability to the pieces. Although seemingly intimidating at first glance, Riera’s works allow the spectator to get close enough to view the life behind these animals, creating a commanding reminder of the impact of the animal kingdom.