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Designmuseum Danmark marks Hans J. Wegner’s birth part 1

Hans Wegner in one of his chairs
Hans Wegner in one of his chairsCourtesy Hans Wegner estate

“If only you could design just one good chair in your life . . . But you simply cannot.”
Hans J. Wegner, 1952.

Hans J. Wegner (1914-2007) was one of history’s most prolific designers. In 1949 he created the design that the Americans called ‘The Chair’. The perfect chair – but he continued designing new ones nonetheless, producing a total of over 500. He was referred to as ‘The King of Chairs’ – or just the ‘Chair Maker’. His furniture paved the way for Danish Design’s international breakthrough in the years after World War II, and he was to become a leading figure in Organic Modernism.

Wegner’s work always took its starting point in craftsmanship, and he produced nearly all of his own prototypes in the workshop. His life is best understood as an enduring mission to understand the logic and the potential of wood. He showed the modern world that the old virtues of craftsmanship, such as sensuality, beautiful detailing and the use of natural materials, also have a place in the modern industrialized world. Wegner’s approach to design was neither retrospective nor romantic, but his furniture was nevertheless full of poetry – which is why his designs, despite the fact that they are wholly rational and grounded in functionality, have remained popular right up to the present day, even escaping criticism from the postmodernists. In our late postmodern times, Wegner in many ways represents a more human route into modernism.

The exhibition tells the story of Wegner’s life and career, showing more than 150 of his major original works from the time, drawings, photos and models, exploring Wegner’s working methods and vast oeuvre. It is also possible to try out and touch over 50 newly produced Wegner-pieces in the exhibition. Along with film and furniture, by some of his contemporaries, like Charles & Ray Eames, Finn Juhl, Arne Jacobsen and Mies van der Rohe, the exhibition shows how the finest wooden furniture is made.