Gispen’s tubular steel furniture and Giso lamps enrich many Dutch homes and offices. They remain popular classics among collectors, corporate clients and individuals. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen celebrates the hundredth anniversary of this famous Dutch furniture manufacturer with an exhibition of the company’s ‘specials’: unique commissions and limited editions.
The exhibition ‘Gispen Specials – The Customer is Always Right’ focused on the unknown Gispen. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen selected fifty special editions and objects produced in limited numbers. These designs showed the company’s quality and flexibility, which have made Dutch design famous throughout the world. Almost without exception, the specials resulted from the specific brief of a client who was unable to find what they wanted in Gispen’s (or other companies’) standard range.
These special editions range from a cast-iron chandelier for the Waalse Kerk in Rotterdam in 1924, a piano lamp for a friend of the director in 1928 and an extra-large conference table for the Van Nelle Factory around 1930. In 1986 Gispen designed ‘anthroposophical’ desks for the Gasunie building and in 1988 chairs for the Rotterdamse Schouwburg. The piano lamp – a special that became part of the main product range – is one of Gispen’s most radical designs.
Gispen in Rotterdam
Willem Hendrik Gispen (1890-1981) had not yet graduated from art school in Rotterdam when he established W.H. Gispen & Co on the Coolsestraat in 1916. Together with architects Brinkman & Van der Vlugt, Gispen furnished the interior of the Van Nelle Factory, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Gispen was also the principal supplier of furniture for Sonneveld House. This villa, a stone’s thrown from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, is one of the most important examples of luxurious Functionalist architecture.