La Bocca, the famous red-lips sofa design dates back to 1936. It was designed by Salvador Dalí. Influenced by the Dada and Surrealist movements, Dalí based the design on the lips of Mae West. The sofa relates to Dali’s paintings and drawings that were inspired by the iconic movie star.
Mae West’s Face Which May Be Used as a Surrealist Apartment (1934–35), for instance, depicts her features as objects in a surrealist room, with her eyes as paintings, her nose as a fireplace, and her lips as a sofa. In 1974, Dalí and the designer Òscar Tusquets turned the collage into an installation, The Mae West Room, which can be seen at the Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres, Spain.
The sofa has in a number of versions under different names over the years: first the Mae West Sofa, later the Bocca Sofa, the Lips Sofa, or the Marilyn Bocca Sofa. The last, which is the version we are most used to seeing today, was designed in 1970 by Studio 65 for Italian manufacturer Gufram. Created as a tribute to Dalí, it was based on the lips of Marilyn Monroe.
Today, the Bocca sofa is considered an emblem of contemporary art and an icon of modern furniture design. It is included in the permanent collection of New York’s MoMA, Paris’s Louvre, Milan’s Permanent Design Collection, and Denver’s Museum of Modern Art. You can also see it in the foyer of the Sanderson London, a hotel designed by Philippe Starck.
The latest version of this legendary sofa was created by the French artist Bertrand Lavier for a 2006 exhibition of contemporary ceramics at the Louvre in Paris. Called La Bocca, it looks exactly like the familiar sofa but is made entirely of Sèvres porcelain.