Game of chairs that are pretty but you’re not allowed to sit in

The Benton Museum hosts an Opening Reception on Thursday night. The night consisted of an exhibition featuring contemporary art furniture inspired by Game of Thrones along with live swing music by Survivor's Swing Band. (Photo by Nicole Jain/The Daily Campus)

With the final season of “Game of Thrones” airing in just two weeks, fans are desperate for content. This desperation may have led some students and community members to the William Benton Museum of Art’s reception Thursday night for the opening of their new exhibit entitled “Game of Thrones: An Exhibition of Contemporary Art Furniture.” While only loosely related to either the book series or the television show, the exhibit features a number of artistic chairs, exploring the relationship between art and function.

The inspiration for the “Game of Thrones” exhibit came from the 2018-2019 UConn Reads book selection: The first volume in the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, which is entitled “Game of Thrones,” just like the TV show. Every year the Benton hosts an exhibit related to the UConn Reads selection.

The exhibit featured a collection of 13 chairs, exemplifying the intersection of aesthetic and utility that can be found in furniture. The exhibit makes a connection to “GOT” through the Iron Throne, which serves in the book not only as an actual throne for the ruler of Westeros, but also as a specific aesthetic and symbolic object. Just like the Iron Throne, the chairs at the exhibit sought this duality.

“You can either have furniture be functional, or it can be artistic, or it can be both,” eighth-semester molecular and cell biology major Dhruv Shah said. “The coolest is when it’s both functional and artistic.”

A first glimpse at the chairs wouldn’t immediately call to mind any associations to the dragons and wights that characterize “GOT.” Some of the art pieces are very similar to regular kitchen chairs, others look like something you might see in a fancy hotel lobby or an Apple headquarters lounge. Others are a little more unusual. “Armchair Gardener” looks like a cross between a Christmas sleigh, an old-fashioned lawn mower and a rocking chair. “Cake Stool” is circular, about the size of a coffee table and covered by sewn-together stuffed animals.

Although it may be a bit of a stretch for some audiences to imagine Tyrion Lannister taking a seat on the caterpillar-esque wooden “River Bench” or Daenerys Stormborn reclining in the golden leaf-like structure of “Like a Prodigal Chair,” the exhibit included an interactive component to make these connections. Former Benton student worker Charlotte MacGregor explained through the self-guided phone “tour” which characters she saw in each chair. If audience members disagreed, there were sticky notes and pencils for them to write down their own ideas of which character matched up with which chair.

“Some of the metal chairs, like the stainless steel one or the bronze one, they remind me of Dragonstone,” fourth-semester natural resources and environment major Travis Kornegay said, referencing the seat of power of the ancient Targaryen family from “GOT.”

In addition to the “GOT” exhibit, Counterproof Press opened an exhibit up on the balcony-level of the museum for the first time Thursday. A collaboration between the Creative Writing Department and the Design Center, the exhibit featured prints with both visuals and poetry. The event was also accompanied by swing dancing and music, compliments of the University of Connecticut Swing Club, and a table set up for UConn Gives.

Even though nobody was allowed to sit in the exhibition chairs, between the swing dancing, the “GOT” photo booth off to the side, the phone tour and the paper crowns for attendees, the evening included a lot of interactivity. Hopefully by making the event interactive, the Benton got attendees thinking about the overarching theme of artistic design.

“What it comes down to in terms of the categories is utility,” Benton assistant curator and academic liaison Amanda Douberly said. “Art, by definition, is useless. Design is art that can be used.”


Alex Houdeshell is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at alexandra.houdeshell@uconn.edu.