In Every Issue: Local Art: Virgil Marti’s Pouf

This banquette-in-the-round puts us in the mood for lounging

Picture yourself in a grand old Victorian portrait gallery full of prodigiously upholstered furniture. You settle atop a roundabout banquette (perfect for a 360˚ view). You look up at the walls, and … nothing. They’re bare. Almost instinctively, your eyes go to your seat, where you notice a rioting rainbow of colors and patterns. Suddenly, it hits you: You were seeking the exquisite and half-expecting the absurd—and you’re sitting on something that is both. This is the work of Missouri-bred, Philadelphia-based artist Virgil Marti, a painter, master printer and acclaimed creator of, in his words, “immersive environments.” In Pouf, Marti tests relations between art and interior design while exploring—and exploding—concepts of class and taste. Pouf  both satirizes and satisfies the desire for “sofa-sized” art. Dripping with tassels, reminiscent of a crazy quilt of bespoke fabrics and remnants, the furnishing at first seems merely flea-market-fabulous. But then, it’s regal, too, a crown surrounding faux fur, a primal intimation that even amid the rarefied realms of art and decor, the animal within us is looking to nest and rest. Examples of Virgil Marti’s work are on view this fall at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Penn’s Institute of Contemporary Art and the Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia.