Legends of Danish design

12.04.2017 – 11.06.2017

Main Building

On April 12, 2017 “The Legends of Danish Design” exhibition will open at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, set up by Moscow Design Museum in collaboration with the Royal Danish Library (Copenhagen) and Dansk Møbelkunst Gallery (Copenhagen), supported by the Royal Danish Embassy in Moscow and the Ministry of Cultural Affairs of Denmark.

The exhibition will feature eight most famous chairs from eight famous Danish designers – Arne Jacobsen, Hans J. Wegner, Børge Mogensen, Kaare Klint, Finn Juhl, Grete Jalk, Poul Kjærholm and Verner Panton, as well as the legendary ARTICHOKE lamp by Poul Henningsen. The exhibits will be supplemented with drawings, sketches, advertising posters, photos and video materials from archives that will tell about the history of each chair, its author, and time. The goal set by the curators is to present classic Danish design through the objects that the Russian viewer primarily associates it with – and to show what has made Denmark one of the leading countries in the field of design.

Design occupies an important place both in the country’s economy and in the Danes’ lives. The works of Danish designers have become not just the classics, but truly emblematic objects of the twentieth century. Design plays a significant role in Denmark’s ‘individuality’, style, and the Danish citizens’ way of life.

The first professional woodworkers guilds appeared in Denmark at the beginning of the 16th century: in 1515, a carpenters’ guild was created, and in 1554 there was established a guild of cabinetmakers, top class craftsmen, who created furniture from expensive types of wood. The guilds set quality standards for goods, supervised the production process as well as training and certifying artisans. Potential guild members presented their products to an expert review committee. At the beginning of the 20th century, this tradition developed into annual professional exhibitions, where unique, benchmark samples of furniture were demonstrated.

In 1930–1950, Danish artisan workshops were compelled to compete with other European industrial enterprises. During that period, the guilds resolved two problems: on the one hand, they proved the advantages of hand-made, individual craftsmanship and on the other hand, they stimulated the development of local mass production. Its necessity was dictated, among other things, by mass construction of public buildings that required new furniture.

In Denmark, industrial design was created to support mass production – high-quality properties were achieved due to the perfectly created form of the object, and properly selected colours and materials.

The famous Designmuseum Danmark was conceived as an ‘educational  centre’ for local producers and artisans. Its founders were sure that, in order to develop all industrial sectors, it was necessary to pay a lot of attention to design, to introduce professionals to its best examples from around the world, as well as to its history so that they could improve their artisan skills. The museum’s collection, library, and archives became a mecca and an important source of information for designers. After its opening to the general public in 1895, it was also supposed to shape up and form good taste. Currently, the richest collection at the Designmuseum Danmark includes works of decorative and applied art, as well as samples of industrial design from Western Europe, the Far East, China and Japan from the Middle Ages up to the present. Special attention is paid to decorative and applied art by Danish designers from the start of the 20th century up to the present.

Danish design as a symbol of elegance, simplicity, and functionality, is famous throughout the world. Exhibition projects linked with Danish design do not occur frequently in Russia. The curators are convinced that this exhibition will launch the start of familiarization with the history of Danish design, and will be interesting for both professionals and amateurs.


Kaare Klint (1888–1954) is, according to many researchers, the ‘father’ of modern Danish furniture design. His FAABORG CHAIR (1914), which launched the "golden age" of Danish design, was created for Faaborg Art Museum. The chair was supposed to be moved around the exhibition hall by the museum visitors, so special attention was paid to its lightness and mobility. Aesthetics, functionalism, and a modern approach to design made this chair one of the key pieces of furniture during the first half of the 20th century.

Arne Jacobsen (1902–1971) is one of the most well-known representatives of Danish design.  An architect by education, he designed and built more than 100 houses in Denmark and abroad.  For some of his projects, he developed design for furniture, textiles, dishes, lamps and lighting fixtures. For example, for the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel in Copenhagen, he designed everything, including the cutlery. His work in the field of furniture design brought him worldwide fame. The ANT, EGG, and SWAN chairs are masterpieces of furniture art that have retained their popularity. While working on the ANT chair, which will be on display at an exhibition at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Jacobsen used his experience as an architect. The ANT’s steel legs are ideal metallic structural components, and its back and seat are a single piece of plywood.

Hans Wegner (1914–2007) is the most innovative of all Danish furniture designers; he received almost all major design awards, including the title of Honorary Royal Designer for Industry, conferred on him by the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce in London. The exhibition includes his most famous chair, which is called THE CHAIR (1949). A simple wooden chair with a wicker seat and a rounded back, later made in leather, became a ‘star’ in 1960 after presidential candidates John Kennedy and Richard Nixon sat on these chairs during the televised debates.

Børge Mogensen (1914–1972) is known as the most ‘social’ Danish designer. Mogensen believed that quality design should be available for everyone, not only for wealthy people, so he launched mass production of furniture which reduced the price without losing the quality. A trip to Spain inspired the designer to create the SPANISH CHAIR (1958) that is part of this exhibition project. Similar chairs were often encountered in that part of Spain that was under the influence of the Islamic culture.

Poul Henningsen (1894–1967) is a leading specialist in the theory of lighting, a designer of unique lamps and decorative lighting fixtures called PH (the name of the series is the designer’s initials). The special feature of PH lamps lies in their ability to emit reflected light. This kind of system enables to achieve glare-free and uniform illumination giving it a warm shade. The most famous model, ARTICHOKE, is yet another design masterpiece of the 20th century, and will be presented at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. The first ARTICHOKE was produced in 1958, but even today it looks like an object of modern art.

Projects by Finn Juhl (1912–1989) were distinguished from those done by his contemporaries by their volume and softness, contrasting with restrained, even minimalist, Danish architecture. For a long time, the designer collaborated with the famous architect Vilhelm Lauritzen. In 1942, Finn Juhl designed a chair that stood in the royal box of the Danish Radio Concert Hall in Copenhagen. This chair will also be shown at the "Legends of Danish Design" exhibition.

Grete Jalk (1920–2006), like most of her colleagues, experimented with new materials and production processes. Interest in her unusual furniture did not arise immediately – at first people mostly bought her works for exhibitions and private collections. Jalk designed furniture sets for industrial production that became very popular, and improved the reputation of Danish furniture design the world over; they were produced in Europe and America. The SHELL CHAIR (1963), made from multi-layered, flexible plywood that will be shown at the exhibition is one of her experimental projects.

Poul Kjærholm (1929–1980) chose steel as the principal material for his products, but always combined it with wood, leather, rattan, and marble. One of his most well-known products, a PK91 (1961) folding chair, will be on display at the Pushkin Museum. History played a very important role for Kjærholm, as well as for most Danish designers. The inspiration behind the model that will be shown at the exhibition was an antique Egyptian chair dated around 1500 B.C. The designer used his own method of ‘rethinking’ the historical furniture types which improved their ergonomics as well as making them more simple, elegant and minimalist.

 ‘Furniture design innovator’, Verner Panton (1926—1998) experimented a lot with new materials (plastic, plexiglass, fiberglass, glass, foam rubber, polypropylene and synthetic fibers) and technological processes. His most famous chair of the 20th century, the PANTON CHAIR, does not have any legs, back, or armrests and was made from a single piece of formed plastic. The production technology was so complicated that it took 7 years for the idea to be implemented and realized. The chair is still in production. Its modern sample will be placed in the exhibition interactive zone, and each visitor will be able to enjoy its comfort or take a photograph.

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