Sean Kelly

The gallerist tells us how his obsession with Poul Kjærholm began and why PK furniture complements contemporary modern art perfectly.

How did your interest in Poul Kjærholm begin?
My wife and I were driving upstate and stopped into a small furniture dealer along the way. 
Years ago, she had a large, round table with the wooden leaves (PK54). I saw it and thought it was beautiful. Of course, I had no knowledge of Poul Kjaerholm at the time. I was just struck by the surface finish of the table and the finish underneath the tabletop. The materials were so thought through. I would say that everything about the table was ‘felt’. There was a human quality to the object. 
I bought the table (a PK54) and the PK9 chairs around it. Afterwards, I did some research and Poul Kjaerholm became somewhat of an obsession. 

What do you consider the genius of Kjærholm’s designs? 
Kjaerholm designs have a tactile quality to them. When you sit on a chair or touch a table, you feel that the surface quality was well thought through and that is communicated to your body – that consideration, intention, and awareness. 

Great designers and architects like Poul Kjaerholm understand the human body and are generous towards it. His work is beyond function, although it is practical too. The designs are comfortable, beautiful, and accommodating, but they elevate the act of sitting. 

Very basic things like sitting or eating at a table become almost sublime. 

Are your guiding principles for collecting art and furniture related? 
Working with artists for a living has certainly informed how I think about space, because that’s what artists do: they think about space. 
A home must have an interior life. Ours has an intellectual spine that I don’t believe can really be improved upon. That’s directly correlated to Toshiko Mori, Poul Kjaerholm, and the artists whose work we live with. 

The pieces of art and furniture within our home are fairly fixed. We do move furniture around, but there are compass points in the art and in the furniture. They have a dialogue with one another, so to speak. 

The genius of Poul Kjaerholm furniture is how elegant and understated it is. It allows one to place it next to great art, and the design works subliminally on the same plane as the art. The furniture is not willfully self-conscious or attention-seeking; it is complementary. I’d go so far as to say that Poul Kjaerholm is the best furniture to use next to great art and architecture, and its use in the Museum of Modern Art is evidence of that, of course. 

Living with great art and design is a pleasure. We`re very lucky. 


‘The Furniture of Poul Kjærholm: Catalogue Raisonne’ co-published by the Sean Kelly Gallery and Gregory R Miller & Company in 2007.


British-born Sean Kelly opened his eponymous gallery in 1991. The Gallery has garnered critical attention for its high caliber exhibitions and collaborations with the most significant cultural institutions around the world. 

After operating privately for four years, the Gallery’s first public space opened at 43 Mercer Street in SoHo, New York. Innovative and revolutionary artists Marina Abramović, James Casebere, Callum Innes, Joseph Kosuth and Julião Sarmento were founding participants in the gallery’s original roster, all of whom still work with the gallery today. 
The Gallery expanded to Chelsea in 2001, moving to a converted 7,000 square-foot industrial space on 29th Street. That new spacious location enabled the Gallery to broaden its creative capacity and curate increasingly ambitious, museum-quality exhibitions to great critical acclaim. With this expansion in space, the Gallery grew its program to represent artists such as Iran do Espírito Santo, Antony Gormley, Rebecca Horn and Frank Thiel. In the ensuing years, the Gallery undertook representation of Los Carpinteros, Leandro Erlich, Laurent Grasso, Johan Grimonprez, Tehching Hsieh, Peter Liversidge, Anthony McCall, Alec Soth and Kehinde Wiley. 

Sean Kelly relocated to the rapidly developing Hudson Yards neighborhood in October of 2012. Award-winning architect Toshiko Mori designed the 22,000 square-foot, two-story gallery at 475 Tenth Avenue, a historic 1914 building. Mori was subsequently awarded the AIA Design Award in Interiors for her unique architectural approach to the Hudson Yards location. Continuing its commitment to artists who challenge traditional boundaries of artistic practice, Sean Kelly has in recent years added internationally acclaimed artists David Claerbout, José Dávila, Candida Höfer, Ilse D’Hollander, Hugo McCloud, Mariko Mori, Liu Wei, James White and Sun Xun to its roster.
In addition to celebrating over twenty-five years of gallery exhibition programming, Sean Kelly has garnered international attention for its collaboration with renowned cultural institutions, coordinating hundreds of exhibitions on behalf of its artists at an array of prestigious museums including the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland; the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel; Kunstwerke Berlin, Germany; the Musée d'Art Contemporain de Montréal, Canada; the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires, Argentina; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sapporo, Japan; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Tate Gallery, London, England; the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia; the Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, Holland; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, to name but a few. 

Sean Kelly has continued to expand its program to include Julian Charrière, Landon Metz, Sam Moyer, Shahzia Sikander and Janaina Tschäpe ushering in a new generation of exceptional contemporary artists. The Gallery continues to work with artists who challenge their practice both aesthetically and conceptually. Throughout its history the same core values, integrity and ethics have remained central to Sean Kelly’s program, its commitment to excellence and quality remains unwavering.