Mathias Bengtsson was born in Copenhagen in 1971 and studied furniture design at the Danish College of Design and the Art Centre College in Switzerland before returning to Copenhagen to form the design collective known as “Panic”. Bengtsson went to London in 1996 to study under Ron Arad at the Royal College of Art where he obtained a degree in 1999 before opening with fellow graduates the design studio “At the Third Stroke” and a year later the “Design Laboratory” in partnership with Sam Buxton. In 2002, Bengtsson opened his own studio.
Mathias Bengtsson makes sculptural objects that are both visually striking and technically innovative. Working with diverse industrial materials and processes, he pushes forward the sculptural, technical, and philosophical possibilities of three-dimensional design. Always seeking to take his thinking in new directions, Bengtsson breaks down established boundaries between design, art, craft and technology.
Bengtsson has since the beginning of his artistic career in the 1990s been inspired by natural forms. His early pieces such as the “Slice” and “Spun Chairs” are marvellous examples of organic design, reflecting the heritage from Scandinavian mid-century design masters such as Finn Juhl and Verner Panton. Certain parallels have already been noticed between Juhl, Panton and Bengtsson in their sculptural approach to design, and in 2011 Bengtsson received the acclaimed Finn Juhl Prize of the Wilhelm Hansen Foundation.
However, with the Cellular Chair (2011) in lightweight resin and the Growth Chair (2012) in solid bronze, Bengtsson takes the idea of organic design to another level because as the titles imply, these works are based on the evolution of organic life itself. By means of a computer program, designed by the artist, the structure of the piece is determined uniquely for each piece to simulate the regeneration of bone tissue or vegetal growth, to create a strong, stable construction.
There is something truly ambitious, audacious and crazily inventive in Bengtsson’s efforts to breach the barriers between nature and human artifice. Creating forms that are analogous to Nature (and no longer an imitation) by using Nature’s own secrets and laws of growth is a Promethean enterprise, and his latest works from the Cellular and the Growth series are masterfully illustrating the thinning boundary between the natural and the artificial.
His pieces occupy a room like individual sculptural units, and often they even exceed their functional dimension, albeit without cancelling it. But even though one can still sit in his pieces, comfort is not exactly a priority here. As Bengtsson once said: “The functions of providing optimal comfort and convenience have long been solved – the study of ergonomics was completed in the 1960s,” he argues. “My furniture is about challenging our senses: that is its function.” Indeed, Bengtsson has indeed since the 1990’s, and before the trendy “design art” concept entered the scene, been toning down the boundaries between design, art and craft while focusing on a mutual exchange between these traditionally separated dimensions.
Bengtsson’s artistic impact on the design field has not passed by unnoticed. Curators of art museums on both sides of the Atlantic have been showing his works extensively both in fine art and design contexts such as in the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Design Museum in London and the Rohsska Museum in Göteborg. Moreover his pieces have been boughtfrom an early stage by a number of significant museums such as the MOMA, The Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston; The Manchester Art Galleries, England; Indianapolis museum of art, USA; Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, USA, the Milwaukee Art Museum, USA and lately the Centre Pompidou in Paris France.
1999 MA Royal College of Art, Furniture/Industrial Design, London
1997 BA Danish Design School, Furniture Design, Copenhagen
1994 Art Centre College, Europe / Vehicle Design, Montreux
MoMA, Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA / The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, USA/ The Mint Museum of Art, North Carolina, USA / High museum of Art, Atlanta, USA/ Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, USA / Montreal Museum of Art, Montreal, Canada/ Frank Cohan Collection, Manchester, UK / Manchester Art Galleries, Manchester, UK / The Lowery , Manchester UK / Cass Sculpture Foundation, West Sussex, UK / Röhsska Design Museum, Sweden / Stedelijk Museum, Holland / Museum of Decorative Arts, Copenhagen, Denmark
2015 : Art Genève, Maria Wettergren, Geneva, Switzerland/ PAD Paris, Maria Wettergren Galerie, Paris, France.
2014 : PAD Paris, Maria Wettergren Galerie, Paris, France / Design Miami /Art Basel, Maria Wettergren Galerie, Basel, Switzerland / The Salon ART+DESIGN, Maria Wettergren, New York, USA/ Design Miami/ Art Basel, Maria Wettergren Galerie, Miami, USA
2013 : Salone del Mobile, Mind Craft 13, Milan, Italy / PAD Paris, Maria Wettergren Galerie, Paris, France
2012 : High Museum of Art, Atlanta, USA / PAD London, Maria Wettergren Galerie, London, UK / Art Basel, Maria Wettergren Galerie, Schweiz / Museum of fine Art, Houston, USA / The Mint Museum of Art, North Carolina, USA / Miami Art Basel, Maria Wettergren Galerie, Miami, USA
Industry Gallery, Washington DC, USA / Pacific Design Center, Los Angeles, USA
2011 : V&A / Moss Gallery, Industrial Revolution 2.0, London, UK / Salone de Mobile, Mindcrafts 11, Milan, Italy
2010 : European design, Indianapolis Museum of art, USA / Nordic models + Common ground, Scandinavian house, New York, USA / 100% Design, Mint Gallery, London, UK / Bienal Brasileira de Design, Danish Design, Curitiba, Brasil / Poetic Licence, Moss Gallery, New York, USA
Spazio, Rossana Orlandi, Danish Crafts, Milan, Italy / Its a small world, World Expo/Danish pavilion, Shanghai, China
2009 : Its a small world, Danish Design Center, Copenhagen, Denmark / Frize, London Art Fair, London, UK / Mathias Bengtsson, The Hub-Center for Art & Design, UK / European Design Exhibition, Indianapolis Museum of Art, USA
2008 : Modern Master Pieces, Christies, New York, USA / Equestrian Park, Olympic Games, Hong Kong, China / 20-21st Century Design, Phillips, London, UK
2007 : 21st Century Collection, MoMA, New York, USA / Cooper-Hewitt, ICFF, New York, USA / Art Council, Touring Exhibition, UK / CC 11, ICFF, New York, USA
2006 : Modern Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, USA / Salone del Mobile, Wallpaper* Global Edit, Milan, Italy / Embassy of Denmark’s Nordic Pavillion, Berlin, Germeny / CC 10, MoMA, New York, USA
2005 : Fiction Hotel, Culture House, Stockholm, Sweden / Barry Friedman Gallery, New York, USA / Britannia Preview, Rove Gallery, London, UK / Mathias Bengtsson, Röhsska Museum, Gothenburg, Sweden / 20-21st Century Design, Phillips, New York, USA
2004 : Manchester Art Galleries, UK / Outdoor Furniture, Louisa Guinness Gallery, London, UK
Radical Design, Galerie Kreo, Paris, France / Great Brits, British Council, Sao Paulo, Brasil
New Talent, Art Review, London, UK
2003 : Great Brits, Tokyo Designers Block, Tokyo / Somewhere Totally Else, Design Museum, London / Salone del Mobile, Great Brits, Paul Smith HQ, Milan / Contemporary Decorative Arts, Sotheby’s, London, UK
2002 : Unexpected Too, Sotheby’s, New York, USA / The Adventures of Aluminium, Design Museum, London, UK / Montreal Museum of Art, Montreal, Canada / Cass Sculpture Foundation, West Sussex, UK / Contemporary Decorative Arts, Sotheby’s, London, UK
2001 : Unexpected, Sotheby’s, New York, USA / Design Now, Design Museum, London, UK / Peugeot Design Award, Oxo Tower, London, UK
2000 : Contemporary Decorative Arts, Sotheby’s, London, UK / Design Museum, London, UK / 100% Design, London, UK / Blueprint Award, Spectrum, London, UK
1999 : Salone del Mobile, Post Design, Memphis Gallery, Milan, Italy
PROJECTS AND COLLABORATIONS :
Audi/Bang & Olufsen / British Council / Central Saint Martins / Christie’s / Biomega /Danish Crafts / DDC / Design Museum / Fritz Hansen / Georg Jensen /Habitat / Kenzo / Louis Poulsen Lighting / MoMA / Moss / Paul Smith / Phillips De Pury /Royal College of Art / Sotheby’s / Volvo