Martin Visser

AVANT-GARDIST, MINIMALIST & ART COLLECTOR

Martin Visser (1922-2009) is one of the most famous Dutch furniture designers. Through his work for the furniture department of De Bijenkorf, Visser was asked in 1954 to become head designer at Spectrum. This turns out to be a big hit; his sleek designs and functional approach to design have inspired the collection for a long time.

1960 collective photo of the BR 02 sofa bed

The BR 02 sofa bed, designed in 1960, is Visser’s most famous design and now a real design classic! The ease of use, comfort and clear construction are essential elements of this successful design. In addition, this design breathes durability: the timeless design and high quality ensure that this sofa bed lasts for generations and fits in every spirit of the age.

SZ 02 armchair in saddle leather

Martin Visser designed many pieces of furniture for Spectrum in the 50s and 60s, a large part of which is still part of the collection. For example, the SZ 01 and SZ 02 armchairs, the SE 05, SE 06 and SE 07 dining chairs and the TE 06 dining table have always been available, and the SE 69 chair was re-included in the collection in 2019, 60 years after its design! The furniture is named after a simple system where the first (Dutch) letter indicates the type of furniture; b (bed)=sofa, s (stoel)=chair and t (tafel)=table. The second letter refers to the function; BR = a sofa to rest on, SE is a chair for the dining room and SZ a chair for the living room. The two digits indicate the model.

Martin Visser with works of art by Sol LeWitt and Christo

Visser had a strong preference for traditionally crafted designs. He demanded the utmost from technique and sought out boundaries to come up with new constructions. Honest use of materials, clear construction and lack of decoration show Visser’s great admiration for Henk Berlage and pre-war functionalism. He wanted to make accessible furniture with as little material and as simple shapes as possible. During his 20 years as chief designer, Visser linked big names to Spectrum, including Gerrit Rietveld, Friso Kramer, Hein Stolle, Constant Nieuwenhuys, Kho Liang Ie and Benno Premsela, who designed furniture for the collection. This made Spectrum one of the few Dutch furniture companies to have involved artists in their collection since the 1950s.

During his life Martin Visser built up an important private collection of contemporary art, in addition to his work as a designer. He collected early work by Cobra, and was considered the discoverer of Anselm Kiefer and Keith Haring. Of his art collection, 400 works are housed in the Kröller-Müller Museum. In December 1998 Martin Visser was rewarded the oeuvre prize for design.

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