Garry Knox Bennett's Notorious Nail Cabinet

Garry Knox Bennett's Notorious Nail Cabinet

Nail Cabinet by Garry Knox Bennett

Nail Cabinet (1979) by Garry Knox Bennett from the exhibition “Explorations II: The New Furniture” at the American Craft Museum in 1991; paduak, glass, copper, brass, 16-penny nail, fluorescent light; 78 x 24 x 24 in. Photo: Eva Heyd

In 1991, the American Craft Museum (now the Museum of Arts and Design) identified furniture as one of the most compelling arenas in which artists of the day were working in the exhibition “Explorations II: The New Furniture.” John Perreault, senior curator of the exhibition, writes in the catalog that “studio furniture making of the craft tradition, whether in production, made to order, or limited to unique pieces, is in a lively period of development.” Some of the 11 selected artists worked within the studio tradition, others crossed over into industrial design.

One of the 60 pieces in the exhibition was Garry Knox Bennett’s notorious Nail Cabinet from 1979. Bennett, a consummate designer and exacting craftsman, played an influential role in freeing American studio furniture from the constraints of traditional practices and expectations. In a defiant act crystallizing his desire to free technique from being an end in itself, Bennett drove a 16-penny nail prominently into the upper panel of his beautiful and luxurious six-foot-tall Nail Cabinet and added some hammer impressions for good measure. From the catalog: “The nail became the focal point of the work, loudly proclaiming the Nail Cabinet to be the statement of the unique, thinking individual and anything but the product of the anonymous craftsman.”

American Craft magazine's June/July 2014 issue features 15 of today’s innovative furniture makers. Watch a trailer for the new issue to see how furniture has evolved in the 23 years since “Explorations II: The New Furniture.”

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