Mònica Piera has a doctorate in art history, specialises in furniture and has a diploma in Works of Art from Sotheby's in London. Since 2004, she has been president of the Associació per a l’Estudi del Moble (Association for the Study of Furniture), an organisation dedicated to the study of furniture and to ensuring its correct conservation and restoration, and she is collaborator of the Museu del Disseny.
In 2009 you were the curator of the exhibition «Dressing tables. Collection of the Museum of Decorative Arts». With the new Museu del Disseny, what role does furniture have in the permanent exhibitions?
The opening of the Museum in the Plaça de les Glòries allowed many pieces to be studied by experts and to discover new details, which we have included in the publications we issue jointly between the Museu del Disseny and the Association for the Study of Furniture. In addition, furniture occupies a prominent part of the «Extraordinary!» exhibition, not only physically but also in terms of content, and from a perspective that goes beyond the chronological.
Talking about the collection of the Museu del Disseny, what piece of Catalan furniture would you highlight?
That’s difficult! I’d say three: the medieval chests of drawers, because they are the most representative pieces of furniture in the museum's collection; the ‘tinell’ or credenza, because it is one of the three specimens that have been preserved of what was a very common type in the past, and which are unknown to the public; and the Fernando II carriage bed, for its elegance and spectacularity.
You are beginning to put things in place for the up-coming exhibition on Francesc Vidal that will take place in 2020 at Museu del Disseny. How’s the work going?
Francesc Vidal i Jevellí is often cited when talking about furniture and decoration of the late nineteenth century, and this exhibition will give us the opportunity to discover unknown aspects of his work. This is why we are researching the archives and collections and we have also commissioned an in-depth study from the Association for the Study of Furniture into all the works they have of his. I do not want to reveal any information, but there will be some important news.
What legacy has he left us?
Vidal was the great revivalist of interior decoration: he turned objects into works of art. He offered unitary decorations, which does not mean as an ensemble. Variety and comfort define his work. But what’s more interesting is, in my opinion, his commercial vision. He understood what the public wanted which was to spend money on renovating their houses; and he offered them that.
At the Museum, we also recently had a icon of architecture and the organisation of interior spaces, Adolf Loos. Why was he passionate about English furniture?
In the blaze of Viennese modernism, Adolf Loos was an architect who gave prominence to comfort and the humanisation of the interior design. For him, it didn’t make any sense to innovate if you couldn’t improve what already existed. He was not scared to look at the furniture from other periods and introduce them into his buildings if he considered them useful. Much English furniture is timeless; Loos knew this and took advantage of it.
After 14 years as the head of the Association for the Study of Furniture, what is your assessment?
The Association was born out of necessity: professionals, working in furniture in isolation needed a space to share interests, research and problems. It was urgently needed to advance the knowledge and publicise the importance of this heritage, and we have achieved this thanks to volunteers who dedicate many hours to this. I am very proud of the publications and journals that bring together essential contributions, as well as our ever theoretical-practical course model that differentiates us from the university. Now, that we have become a benchmark in Spain, we are taking on a new challenge: the leap towards internationalisation.
Beyond the association and talking about the future, what other projects will you take on next?
I am currently involved in various exhibition projects. The next one is about the “Llibre de passanties” (apprentices book) of the master carpenters at the Museu de Cultures del Món (Museum of World Cultures); I am also working on one that’s really needed, on the relationship between textiles and furniture, at the CDMTT; and in 2020, as we have discussed, Francesc Vidal together with Ricard Bru.
Do you think it is by chance that so many exhibitions about the world of furniture are happening?
No, I think it's a demonstration of the interest that exists on the street for what is everyday and close at hand. I have collaborated on the museum displays for several house-museums, which have proven to be an easier way of understanding the past. In the exhibitions, as well as the courses I teach, I try to get people fascinated by the amount of interesting information that a simple chair or a piece of wood can provide. For me, furniture is what captivated me more than thirty years ago and each project is a new opportunity to learn more.