“To me, a classic has three qualities,” said Bobbye Tigerman, the curator of decorative arts and design at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. “It reflects the time in which it was made, it demonstrates outstanding craftsmanship and it has a timeless visual appeal. Her pick: the Nyala chair by Jomo Tariku, which signals the designer’s Ethiopian heritage and his concern for antelope native to the Bale Mountains in that country. Nyala’s organic curves “give it a timeless visual allure,” she said.
Gus Casely-Hayford, the director of the V&A East Museum, which is scheduled to open in his home base, London, in 2024, saw practicality as the foundation for future recognition. “I live in a city with nine million people and over three million cars,” he said. “It’s impossible to get around. You start to think about having a bike, but so often people find them stolen.”
Which is why he nominated the Brompton electric bicycle, first introduced in 2017. “Small and compact, it folds down to the size of a piece of luggage that you might take with you on a plane, but it can be ridden by anyone of any size,” he said. “Bikes were originally designed in the 1880s. This is a foldable, electric, timeless invention that feels incredibly timely.”
Marc Benda, the co-founder of Friedman Benda in Manhattan, which deals in limited-edition designs, pleaded guilty to self-interest when he singled out the Trauma Chair (2020) by Samuel Ross, a British industrial and fashion designer his gallery represents. “The chair, which has already entered the collections of two museums, is really a reaction to the events of three years ago,” Mr. Benda said, referring to the protests after the killing of George Floyd by a police officer. “It’s a Black voice addressing issues of social justice.”
Though his gallery objects are not widely available, Mr. Benda said, they should still qualify for admission into the canon of classics. “They can be seen and appreciated in museums and on Instagram,” he said. “It’s not only about acquiring.”