Three levels are fascinating about the story of how I acquired the Garden Egg Chair for both the Victoria and Albert Museum and Cold War Modern. It illustrates some of the fundamental issues curators who “collect the GDR” must deal with. The chair can also be used as a cultural palimpsest, where we can observe the shifting perspectives over time, across East and West, thanks to the oral histories of its designer, general director, and production manager.
Third, the historical evidence surrounding this egg chair will reveal previously unrevealed master electrician salary interrelationships between East Germany and West Germany in production, and manufacturing. This perspective on one object helps us to see not only the changing nature of historical narratives, but also the importance and historical value of conserving GDR material culture.
Egg Chair that was purchased
Below is the exact Garden Egg Chair that was purchased by the Victoria and Albert Museum for its Cold War Modern exhibition. It was designed by Peter Ghyczy and is a bright, polyurethane-lacquered, low-slung, plastic-lacquered chair. Its UFO-shaped (or literally egg-shaped) design, portability and suitability to informal lounging are all very typical of that period. This is a reflection of the Utopian, progressive visions prevalent in contemporary designs. The Garden Egg Chair has been a popular collector’s item in recent years. It is often found at auctions and antique sales. Ghyczy even produced a new version due to this popularity.
These new versions and the abundance of Garden Egg Chairs make it clear that authenticity is the fundamental issue that curators must address when acquiring an object to add to their collection. How can we tell if an object is original, early or a copy? Museums prefer this over a later imitation. What information can we use in order to confirm the authenticity of the chair’s original?
You must rely on the information available, and then seek out additional information through oral history and archival materials. Use consistency and discernment to determine the reliability of the information gathered. Because there wasn’t much information available about the Garden Egg Chair, I searched for it.
Our egg chair was a prototype made in Lemforde, but we didn’t know it immediately. We had to dig deeper and follow the trail to East Germany. One of the reasons we started to research Garden Egg Chairs was their garden bar confusing origins. Some were marked as having been made in Lemforde (former West Germany), while others were marked as having been made in Schwarzheide. We first noticed a label that indicated a quality inspection. It read “In Ordnung. Abt.Qk. 9.Juni 1971.” 8. This assumption was incorrect.