The wonderful and diverse world of the export adventure often called Danish Modern can be explored at the Designmuseum Danmark in Copenhagen. There is a permanent exhibition displaying a global selection of chairs, with a focus on chairs from Denmark.
Christian Holmsted Olesen has written a book with the same title published by the museum, which tells the full story of the Danish chairs that were created during the 20th century. Danish designers are renowned around the world for their beautiful and functional chairs.
Most of the chairs are Danish from the 20th century although there are several chairs that were made in the 19th century – an English Windsor Chair, an American Shaker Chair and Chinese chairs – that have been included because their forms of construction influenced Danish designs – and there are some modern international designs including chairs from England, Italy, Austria, Germany and the USA that help to set the Danish furniture in a wider context.
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The chair is the piece of furniture that is closest to human beings. It touches and reflects the body that sits on it, with arms, legs, seat and back. It is a designer’s touchstone and design history’s favorite object. And the chair is one of the most culture-bearing design objects.
The Danish Chair – An International Affair, the book
The book is structured around chair types and illustrates how the ‘golden age’ of Danish furniture design was driven by the study and refinement of historical furniture types. It traces the family relations between the chairs and shows how they influenced each other in terms of detailing, construction and concept.
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Essentially, the book takes the form of a catalogue with separate entries for nine stools and for 104 chairs with each on a double-page spread, although for 31 of these the entries continue over to a second double-page that is used for historic photographs of the chair or for reproductions of working drawings.
The Danish Chair – An International Affair, the exhibition
The exhibition emphasizes on the golden age of Danish furniture design, 1920-1970, allowing visitors to experience about 100 Danish and a handful of international chairs shown as individual works of art – from wooden chairs to armchairs to folding chairs, lounge chairs, dining-room chairs and rocking chairs.
Design was the cultural phenomenon that put Denmark on the world map in the mid-20th century. The international brand of Danish Design arose in 1949 when American journalists began to write about the Danish furniture at the Copenhagen Cabinetmakers’ Guild exhibition.
Enormous chair collection
In the book, descriptions for each chair are succinct with most of the entries just over a hundred words although several are shorter and only two of the chairs have a text that goes into a second paragraph.
“With this new presentation of our enormous chair collection, we hope to give our guests an overview of the Danish chair’s roots as well as a look at the chair as a culture-bearing and artistic object. We want to communicate Danish Design’s DNA through the chair, which is one of the strongest representatives of the development of Danish design,” says exhibit curator Christian Holmsted Olesen.
The Danish Chair – An International Affair, written by Tor Kjolberg