Danish designer Verner Panton might be synonymous with a handful of iconic designs, but a comprehensive exhibition in New York City is reiterating just how wide-reaching his design legacy is. R & Company, the first gallery in the United States to showcase Panton’s work back in 2001, has transformed its Tribeca space to showcase Panton’s singular approach to form, colour and material, 20 years later. With nearly 50 objects on display, which have been collected over the course of three years, the exhibition invites visitors into Panton’s bold and playful world, with rare and iconic lamps, textiles, chairs and other furniture designs all on display.

Collectible designs by Verner Panton

A dark room with a colourful background featuring a sinuous pattern, serving as the backdrop for Verner Panton chandeliers
Verner Panton, ‘S’ chairs model 276 (c. 1965), ‘Spiral’ hanging lamps model SP01 (c.1969)

R & Company was inspired to stage the exhibition in an effort to revive the market for collecting Panton works, which has been dormant for many years due to the difficulty in tracking down original pieces. The exhibition not only showcases Panton’s flair for colour, forward-thinking approach to mass production and his experiments with light and form, but also his all-encompassing approach to using pattern, colour and texture to evoke a mood and aura – all going against the grain of traditional Scandinavian wood craftsmanship. 

‘In many ways we take for granted what Panton achieved in his career,’ says Zesty Meyers, principal at R & Company. ‘When he first opened his studio in the 1950s, no one was working with curved forms and bold colour, layering patterns, and breaking functional objects out of their most rigid and recognisable forms and materials. He had an incredible vision that was grounded in deep intellectual theory about the importance of imagination, play, and feeling within our everyday contexts. Today, we understand these experiences as common, which is a testament to his success and importance. There isn’t a designer that works in colour that hasn’t been influenced by Panton, whether consciously or subconsciously. Now, we are once again bringing into view the vast diversity and significance of his work.’

Verner Panton lighting designs

Close up of VP Globe pendant lamp, a hanging ball light designed by Verner Panton
Verner Panton, ‘VP Globe’ pendant light (c. 1970)

R & Company’s showcase focuses on Panton’s lighting designs, which each uphold the designer’s philosophy of obscuring the lightbulb in order to heighten the experience of form, material and quality of light. With more than a dozen examples of his hanging and wall-mounted lamps, including the sculptural ‘Fireball’ lamp that was never produced and several versions of his colourful ‘Wonderlamp’, the exhibition sheds light on Panton’s ability to toe the line between form and function, even back then. Set against textiles and carpets that haven’t been seen for years, as well as a rare sofa that Panton designed for Thonet, which is on view in its original fabric, the dynamic range of works captures his legacy in a whole new light.

‘With this exhibition, we are creating a space of escape and respite – a place where the imagination can wander, even if briefly, away from the stresses outside. This is very much in alignment with Panton’s vision, to produce objects and environments to excite, inspire, and compel people,’ says Evan Snyderman, principal at R & Company.

‘This is also particularly meaningful for us. We opened our first dedicated Panton show just after 9/11 on 4 October 2001. We were amazed by the number of people that navigated the many obstacles to see the show at our Franklin Street space, which was in Zone 1, the highest security area of the city. But we believe fully that it was the richness of the Panton experience that drove them to see it. We find ourselves again in a difficult moment and we’re thrilled to offer this exhibition as a place for people to come and be present and connect with these extraordinary works.’ §

Ball Lamp type G by Verner Panton, consisting of a multitude of red plastic balls
Verner Panton, ‘Ball’ lamp type G (1970)
A Wire Cone chair and orange pendant lights by Verner Panton photographed with a black and white optical backdrop

Verner Panton, ‘Wire Cone’ chair (c. 1960) and ‘Flower Pot’ pendant lamps model VP7 (1968)