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A new Mexico City show explores design imitation as the sincerest form of legacy

‘Oscar Hagerman: Sillas de México’ on view at Kurimanzutto, Mexico City.
‘Oscar Hagerman: Sillas de México’ on view at Kurimanzutto, Mexico City.

A survey of work by the designer and architect Oscar Hagerman opens at Kurimanzutto gallery in Mexico City exploring imitation as the sincerest form of legacy. ‘Oscar Hagerman: Sillas de México’ features both his Arrullo chair from 1969 — as well as its myriad knockoffs.

Available at freeway off-ramps and markets across Mexico, these slightly modified reproductions reflect Hagerman’s generous sense of ownership. In each iteration of his classic chair is a mark of ingenuity: a woven rush seat native to a region, or a joinery technique suitable for a different climate.

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Born in Spain in 1936, Hagerman long collaborated with craftspeople in isolated regions of Mexico, and based the Arrullo chair on a traditional design. Its ubiquity now, nearly 50 years later, was always the intention, says the designer, who first presented a range of utilitarian furniture while at the Emiliano Zapata Collective for workers and peasants.

The exhibition highlights Hagerman’s social work within these rural communities, and its connection to the ergonomic chair designs. ‘Industrial design teaches us to look for original forms, but the greatest achievement is to create a universe that belongs to people and makes them feel like they own and create it,’ Hagerman says. ‘When I leave, they know how to do it, and they don’t need me anymore.’ §

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