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Checking in – Virgil Marti’s “Poufs” in Barnes’ Person of the Crowd

Artblog talked with Virgil Marti at the press preview of Barnes' Person of the Crowd, a multi-faceted festival about artists who work in and love the streets of a city. Marti's whimsical and delightful "poufs" are featured in the project. - Artblog Editor


When he was approached by the Barnes Foundation to be involved in the Person of the Crowd project  about flânerie (the art of strolling, idling), Virgil Marti thought to himself, I’m not a flâneur, am I? But then he thought again about the idea of walking the streets and thinking and observing and walking some more, and he decided that yes, maybe he was a flâneur — of Fabric Row, the fabric and notions mecca on 4th Street in Queen Village.

round "pouf" to sit on at Barnes Foundation
Virgil Marti’s “pouf” named “Doppelganger” at Barnes Foundation, for Person of the Crowd

Marti, a multi-talented, multi-accoladed artist, often uses fabric and trimmings in his works. Recently he selected materials for two new “poufs” he made for Person of the Crowd from Fabric Row merchants. “Poufs” are Marti’s plush, round seating elements that look like soft flying saucers or ottomans. They evoke the opulence and graciousness of the salon society of Paris in the time of the Impressionists. They are comfy and provide artful communal seating.

Virgil Marti sitting on a comfortable "pouf"
Virgil Marti, sitting on “pouf” named “Doppelganger” at Barnes Foundation, for Person of the Crowd

It’s not a given that a “pouf” is subversive, but Marti’s “pouf” has inserted itself into the Barnes Collection galleries, a contemporary art beachhead amongst the Impressionists and post Impressionists. Because it doesn’t disturb the ensembles on the walls the functional art is allowed, and in fact, welcomed. Maybe Dr. Barnes would be pleased – he was pretty subversive in his own way and he liked contemporary art.

You can sit on the pouf – its name is “Doppelganger” — it is comfortable and will look great with you lounging on it. In fact, the pouf replaces two wood benches that are normally in the gallery.

Virgil Marti "pouf" outside the Barnes Foundation
Virgil Marti’s second “pouf” named “Doppelganger” outside the Barnes Foundation, for Person of the Crowd. This pouf will travel to 4 other locations in Philadelphia

Marti made two poufs for the Barnes – the one in the gallery and the other, an indoor-outdoor pouf that will travel, flâneur style, to several carefully considered locales around Philadelphia, between now and May 22. Indoor/Outdoor “Doppelganger” will decorate, surprise and provide comfort wherever it goes. “It’s a thing that’s trying to blend in,” said Marti of his traveling pouf. Stops on “Doppelganger’s” tour include Taller Puertorriqueño (Feb. 28-Mar. 20), Smith Playground (Mar. 21 – April 10), Shofuso Japanese House and Garden (April 11 – May 1) and Laurel Hill Cemetery (May 2 – 22).

More about Person of the Crowd at the Person of the Crowd project website. And, read the Artblog post about Marti’s pouf in the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s 2010 Picasso and the Avant-Garde exhibit.