Whether it is fulfilling a holiday gift list, preparing for the first days of school, or even navigating a busy grocery store, most people have experienced the exhaustion of shopping. A sole lounge chair or bench in a store is often a welcome respite, an oasis for tired feet, and heavy bags. The German artist and founder of Stiletto Studios in Berlin, Frank Schreiner, may have been thinking of the extreme shopper, when he designed the armchair, Consumer’s Rest, in 1983. Originally a metal locksmith in the German armed forces, Schreiner later became a video artist and eventually, in 1982, started designing furniture. Fabricated of chromed metal wires and rolling casters, Schreiner reinterpreted the everyday object of the supermarket-shopping cart and endowed it with a new function. Schreiner revealed in a 1990 interview with the Design section of the New York Times that the inspiration for the Consumer’s Rest chair came from a comment from his mother, while browsing in a design shop in Berlin, about wire-mesh furniture reminding her of shopping carts.
Consumer’s Rest may not exude a user’s comfort as much as it generates a satirical commentary on the consumerism of the 1980s. In 1989, Schreiner convinced a German manufacturer of shopping carts, Brüder Siegel, to produce a series of his work. A year later the chair went into production, and what began as an ironic and satirical work of art became its own consumer item. When Schreiner became aware of their miniature shopping carts for children, he was compelled to create a child-sized chair called Short Rest, in a colorful powder coated red. As a featured piece in the 2012, Museum of Modern Art exhibition, Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900–2000, Short Rest was an object that helped Schreiner extend further commentary on consumer culture and its focus on the child as an invaluable aspect of the consumer marketplace.
Rachel Brill has been a volunteer docent at the Cooper Hewitt, National Design Museum since 2006. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History and Italian language from Vassar College and is currently based in New York City.