Why you should care

Because surreal, genre-bending furniture art may soon come to a living room near you. 

When is a chair not a chair? When it’s a canvas hanging on a wall. Or is it?

This isn’t just a question for the Descartes of the furniture world. It’s also a question for the latest hot furniture trend.

This season the Museum of Modern Art’s store — whose pieces more often resemble functional art than simple gift-shop fare — features YOYs boundary-crossing Canvas Chair.

The chair — or is it the wall-hanging? — is stretched fabric over a frame, with a canvas-like feel and printed with a blue armchair.

The piece hangs on a wall like art. But you can take it down and lean it against the wall; the fabric stretches enough that you can actually take a seat. In the chair. Turning the 2-D art into 3-D furniture.

YOY is a pair of young Japanese designers, who founded their firm in 2011. The chair has made a splash across international design tastemakers, from Hong Kong to Canada.

Chair art (or is it the art chair?) doesn’t come cheap.

It caught the eye of the MOMA shop curators as the embodiment of the future of furniture and art.

“We have been seeing designers play with perspective and dimensionality, and the Canvas Chair really epitomizes the sense of surprise and discovery involved in subverted expectations,” says Chay Costello, the museum’s assistant director of merchandising.

“For years we have seen a pared-down treatment of lines and form toward a surreal end in smaller tabletop items,” Costello adds. “Now we are increasingly seeing furniture designers bringing these whimsical impulses to larger furniture pieces.”

Chair art (or is it the art chair?) doesn’t come cheap, at $1,255 a pop. Consider wing chairs from the trendy West Elm, at half price.

But in a way, you’re getting a two-for-one deal, not to mention a conversation piece. Furniture has long blurred the lines between art and practical, like the minimalist Wassily chair or the classic, and classically comfortable, Eames.

Of course, no word yet on whether the chair passes the vital usage tests of curling up with a good book on a rainy day for hours, or whether Fido or Princess Kitty will figure out where to perch should you swap canvas for stuffing.

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