Robb Report (USA)

Clara Porset



PORSET WAS BORN in Cuba in 1895, but she traveled the world to hone her craft at institutio­ns such as the famed École des Beaux-Arts and the Louvre, in Paris. After returning home, she created furniture for schools and gave lectures about the importance of modern design, but her outspoken support for the Cuban worker uprisings quickly led to political exile in 1935. Porset decamped to Mexico, where she married painter and muralist Xavier Guerrero. The two entered the Museum of Modern Art’s Organic Design in Home Furnishing­s competitio­n as ateam in 1940— the first time that Latin American designers were included in a call for proposals—but only Guerrero received credit. While in Mexico, Porset advocated for the use of traditiona­l handicraft­s and techniques, in contrast to the prevailing enthusiasm for more efficient industrial manufactur­ing methods. Perhaps her most notable achievemen­t is her reinventio­n of the Butaque chair, a low-slung seat that was originally introduced by Spanish conquerors but was later appropriat­ed by Mexicans as a symbol of nationalis­m. Porset took that activism a step further, tapping local artisans to make the popular design with regionally sourced materials, including wicker, oak and leather.

“Within the design industry, there’s no doubt that Porset is considered a pioneer. However, in the mainstream, her work is often lesser known to that of her contempora­ries, including architect Luis Barragán, who himself commission­ed her now-iconic Butaque chairs. Porset was one of the leading voices of Mexican modernism, believing that contempora­ry Mexican design should also honor its craft history. She was part of a group of progressiv­e designers in Mexico who encouraged the use of local materials, age-old techniques and indigenous design motifs to create a distinct Mexican modernist style.” —Natasha Baradaran, Natasha Baradaran Interior Design

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wood-andhide Butaque chair by Luteca
Clara Porset’s wood-andhide Butaque chair by Luteca
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