Chairs sat in by the famous could be yours

Photographer’s Eames seats used by Kennedy, Tom Wolfe and Dave Brubeck up for sale

Friday, 25th March — By Anna Lamche

Screenshot 2022-03-25 at 15.12.37

Eames chairs belonging to renowned photographer now on sale in Canonbury

WHAT does a US President, a famous novelist and some of America’s most well-known jazz musicians have in common? Answer: They have all sat in the same leather chairs.

Vishal Sethi, owner of Canonbury’s Revelloyd Interiors furniture shop, recently came into possession these “seats of power” – two chairs once owned by the renowned photographer Jacques Lowe.

Among other things, Mr Lowe served as the official photographer to John F Kennedy (JFK), the US President infamously assassinated as he toured the USA in 1963.

Mr Lowe spent several years by JFK’s side, capturing his campaign trail before becoming the Kennedy family’s personal photographer during their time at the White House. Many iconic photos of JFK can be traced back to Mr Lowe’s lens.

After JFK’s assassination, Mr Lowe turned his attention to producing a series of portraits of American jazz musicians, among them Dave Brubeck, Oscar Peterson and Randy Weston.

In his private life, Mr Lowe spent long hours in the company of his best friend Tom Wolfe, the critically acclaimed author of The Bonfire of the Vanities.

Towards the end of his career, Mr Lowe was told his image archive was so precious that it was uninsurable. For security, he stored his negatives and contact sheets in JP Morgan’s apparently indestructible bank vaults – situated in the World Trade Center.

With the terror attacks of 9/11, the majority of his archive was reduced to ash.

Mr Sethi bought the chairs from Mr Lowe’s daughter, Thomasina, who said “they made up [Mr Lowe’s] meeting space where all his business meetings took place, usually alongside the studio, from Kennedy relatives to Tom Wolfe to countless jazz musicians who appeared in one of his books celebrating jazz portraits”.

The chairs, which have been dubbed the “Time Life chairs” because they were designed for New York’s Time Life building, also mark a significant turning point in the history of furniture design.

Vishal Sethi sits in Eames Chair in Canonbury

Vishal Sethi

 

“They’re one of the most famous designs by Charles and Ray Eames, the premier furniture designers of the 20th century. These particular chairs are really important historically because they’re put together in a modular way – all the different elements could be made separately and put together in a factory.

“It was a new method of manufacturing. This was cutting edge in the 50s, it was really futuristic stuff,” Mr Sethi said.

Mr Sethi, who has said he is open to all offers, is hoping to sell the chairs together. “They’ve been together for their whole history, and ideally I’d like them to stay together,” he said.

The chairs, which show some understandable signs of wear, will not be repaired. “Originally, I was going to reupholster them, but then I thought: you know what, it’s kind of history who’s been sitting here. If I take all the covering off and redo everything – it’s Theseus’s ship, isn’t it?”

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