Unexpected and Unwelcome (NSFW)

My friend forwarded me an email they received from the furniture/lighting company, Moooi, based in the Netherlands.

From January 14 through January 20, 2013, they will be kicking off the year at Design Post in Cologne and are inviting people on their email listserv to join them.

The new collection is called “The Unexpected Welcome.”

Here is the image that was embedded in the invitation:

A naked, curvaceous black woman is inside a dark brown box and she is curled over a black chair. The word "Moooi" runs repeatedly around the image.

This image also shows up on the page where you can order this chair, named the Monster Chair.

This is pairing of naked bodies with chairs is apparently what Moooi is doing in 2013 (this link will take you to the Gothic Chair and if you scroll down, you’ll see a naked white man who appears older posing in an orange box with two of the chairs — and I’ll note that no scrolling necessary to see the image above on the Monster Chair page). I don’t have time to navigate the entire collection looking for all the images that feature naked people but this one of the black woman smiling in the brown box while hugging a black Monster Chair is the one they’ve chosen to headline the campaign for the collection.

She’s unexpected, I guess, but she’s welcome? Is that the message here?

I’m not an expert on the long-standing racial issues in The Netherlands, where Moooi is headquartered, but the amazing website Space Invaders has plenty on this. Moooi was founded by these guys.

I don’t really know how I feel about this image or campaign.

But I do know that images don’t exist in vacuums unattached to larger cultural issues, like those that Space Invaders does a wonderful job cataloguing and analyzing.

I also know this: I can’t imagine being a professional black woman in her professional office doing her professional work and then receiving this email with this image shining back at her from the computer screen. The email was probably unexpected but I’d guess it was most likely also unwelcome.


Update: Or, as @tressiemcphd succinctly put it: “black women’s bodies in modern human zoos.”

Jos Truitt added: “I wish I could be happy to see a fat black model getting work (and looking hot posing nude), but being linked to a product with “Monster” in its name? in the Netherlands? Super dehumanizing.”

And MKP wrote on Twitter: “to me the alignment of the model with the monster chair is what’s problematic. An uncharged product might have been cute, assuming such a thing as uncharged exists.”

Piggybacking off of MKP’s comment, certainly one of the things I personally am responding to is her nudity but I’m also a product of squeamish US culture and so that response may not be fair outside of the US. Oh, I have so many thoughts here.

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