Building up an icon (mass produced) – Part #14

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The term “Scandinavian Design” (which includes Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland) originated from the show “Design in Scandinavia” that toured the US and Canada from 1954 to 1957. Promoting the “Scandinavian way of living”, it exhibited various  works by Nordic designers and established the meaning of the term that continues until today: beautiful and clean line designs,  inspired by nature and the northern climate, accessible and available to all. Danish teak furniture, Swedish crystal and textiles, Norwegian enamel, Finnish furniture and glass merged into a concept generally perceived as Scandinavian. On the other hand, “Danish Design” is a term often used to describe a style of functionalistic design and architecture that was developed in mid-20th century. Influenced by the German Bauhaus school, many Danish designers used the new industrial technologies, combined with ideas of simplicity and functionalism to design furniture which have become iconic. A number of firms continue to be active in producing both classic Danish Modern designs and in introducing variants designed by a new generation of artists. I have put together a small zummary of the most prestigious Danish furniture makers and the designs they have been producing from famous contributors to “Danish Modern” like Finn Juhl, Kaare Klint, Mogens Koch, Børge Mogensen, Nanna Ditzel and Hans J. Wegner:

Rud Rasmussen, a family-owned and family-run furniture company founded in 1869 by Rudolph Rasmussen. Since then, the company has been handed down from generation to generation and today it is run by the 4th generation, by master cabinet maker and architect Jørgen Rud. Rasmussen. Their claim to fame is its close collaboration between architect and cabinet maker. In the late 1920´s contact was established to Kaare Klint and Mogens Koch whose designs Rud. Rasmussen has produced ever since. Rud Rasmussen´s list of recognized designers include: Kaare Klint, Mogens Koch, Hans J. Wegner, Børge Mogensen, Mogens Lassen, Poul Kjærholm, Finn Juhl, Ole Wanscher, Bernt, Larsen & Bender Madsen, Hans Bølling, Nanna Ditzel, Cecilie Manz, Jørgen Rud. Rasmussen and Vagn Jacobsen.

Specialized in seaweed mattresses in the early days, Getama was founded in 1899. Getama has manufactured furniture designs by Hans J. Wegner for almost 60 years and they still are the company´s best-seller. In 1994 Getama became part of Temco A/S, a Danish manufacturer of steel products; this cooperation resulted in a range of models that combine the elasticity of steel with lines of wood and upholstery. Hans J. Wegner, Nanna Ditzel, Bernt, 2R Rasmussen & Rolff, Niels Jørgen Haugesen, Jens Ole Christensen and O&M Design have collaborated with Getama.

Carl Hansen & Son opened his furniture workshop in Odense, Denmark in 1908. At the beginning, the company produced bespoke furniture – including everything from dining room sets to bedroom suites. As the company grew and times changed, it gradually began to produce smaller series of its most popular pieces. This combination of hand craftsmanship and rational series production soon became the firm’s hallmark – and continues to set it apart today. Until the mid- 1940’s, Carl Hansen & Son cooperated with Frits Henningsen, a Danish architect and cabinetmaker. It was Carl Hansen’s son Holger, who took a chance on the groundbreaking designs of the young Hans J. Wegner and the collaboration between Wegner and Carl Hansen & Son began in 1949. Wegner designed 4 chairs especially for Carl Hansen & Son that very same year (CH22, CH23, CH24 and CH25) – all of which came into production and were launched in 1950. Wegner’s first pieces for series production were anything but easy to make. With their distinctive, sculptural forms, CH24 (The Wishbone Chair) and CH25 (The Paddle Chair), were the most ambitious designs. The Wishbone Chair was particularly challenging. Its back rail was steam bent, its rear legs required turning by a sub-supplier and its construction demanded perfect craftsmanship. Holger Hansen, himself a master cabinetmaker as well as a businessman, worked closely with Wegner to adapt the company’s series production to the radically different designs. Today, Carl Hansen & Son continues to cooperate closely with the Hans J. Wegner Studio to introduce or re-issue outstanding designs from the treasure chest that Wegner left behind.

Fredericia Furniture’s history dates back to 1911, when the furniture company Fredericia Stolefabrik was founded. Closely connected to the name of Børge Mogensen, it produces the majority of this architect’s classic furniture designs. Their collection is based on furniture from Børge Mogensen, Nanna Ditzel and Hans J. Wegner, as well as new designers such as Alfredo Häberli, Shin Azumi, Thomas Pedersen, Hans Sandgren Jakobsen and many others. The Fredericia Furniture Collection ranges from classic designs rooted in the golden age of Danish furniture architecture to daring and innovative designs such as Cecilie Manz’s prized side table “Micado”:

PP Møbler is a family owned Danish joinery workshop established in 1953, with a strong tradition for crafting high quality design furniture. Throughout the years, PP Møbler has manufactured several unique pieces of furniture in cooperation with different designers. They are all characterized by exquisite craftsmanship and at the same time marked by the overall design vision. Types, styles, form, and material have never limited PP Møbler. The majority of the production consists of Hans J. Wegner’s furniture – mainly chairs – but several other designers have left their mark as well like Thomas Alken, Soren Ulrik Petersen, Zaha Hadid, Lise & Hans Isbrand, Jorgen Hoj, Cecilie Manz, Poul Kjaerholm, Ole Gjerlov Knudsen, Nanna Ditzel, Verner Panton, Gunnar Aagaard Andersen, Frederik Mattsons, Jeremy Walton, Lovorika Banovic and Komplot Design.

The Erik Jørgensen Møbelfabrik was founded in 1954by Erik Jørgensen. Erik combined his skills as a craftsman and good understanding of materials with new functionalist design trends and he lead the small company to success within a few years. He thought it was essential to have a constant interaction with the architects in order to create the right combination of design, function and quality. Several chairs and sofas produced by Erik Jørgensen have already become classics and their furniture is frequently used by actors, pop idols and heads of government. Jack Nicholson was one of the first stars to sit in a chair by Erik Jørgensen when he first leaned back in a “Corona Chair” in the film “Carnal Knowledge” (1971). The list goes on, and there are countless examples of music videos and fashion shoots in which the “Corona Chair” or the “Ox Chair” have been showcased. Erik Jørgensen´s leading designers: Foersom & Hiort-Lorenzen, Louise Campbell, Poul M. Volther, Jensen/Ernst, Niels Gammelgaard, Hans J. Wegner, EJ DesignTeam, David Lewis, Erik Ole Jørgensen, Jørgen Gammelgaard, Tine Mouritsen & Mia Sinding, Hannes Wettstein, Tine Mouritsen. Also, Erik Jørgensen´s annual “EJ Design Award”, launched in 1995, ensures that a new generation of young designers is introduced into the trade when invited to present their daring ideas and visions.

Ivan Hansen & Hans Henrik Sørensen founded their furniture company Hansen & Sørensen in 1990. In 1998 Hansen &  Sørensen (the present Onecollection), was contacted by Finn Juhl’s second wife Hanne Wilhelm Hansen, she requested the company to produce a Finn Juhl Model 57-Sofa for an exhibition. This led to the cooperation with Hanne regarding the re-launching of Finn Juhl’s* furniture. Today Onecollection has (as the only part in the world) the rights to produce and sell Finn Juhl’s designs, for the past 10 years the company has put 15 pieces of his many models in production. *Finn Juhl is regarded as the father of “Danish Design” and he introduced Danish Modern to America. With Finn Juhl as their flagship, Onecollection offers an interesting collection of furniture together with other Nordic designers like Nanna Ditzel, Erla Óskarsdóttir, Rud Thygesen & Johnny Sørensen, Søren Holst, Henrik Tengler, Niels Gammelgaard, Linn Bjørk, Tove & Edvard Kindt-Larsen among others.

Danish furniture manufacturer Johannes Hansen produced a number of furniture between the 1940’s – 1970’s. While there has been no production since then, several pieces have appeared in auctions during recent years; their beauty and rarity have kept prices high. An important part of Johannes Hansen’s success was based on the fruitful cooperation with Hans J. Wegner initiated in 1940. The first pieces of furniture designed by Wegner were displayed in Johannes Hansen’s store in Copenhagen in 1941. Even though Johannes Hansen was more than twice as old as Wegner, the unique collaboration between the two men became the undisputed backbone of Danish furniture design and the main reason for its recognition in the 1950’s and 1960’s. In 1944 Wegner designed for Johannes Hansen the first of a long series of ‘Chinese’ chairs, a series of chairs inspired by portraits of Danish merchants sitting in Ming chairs. Another of his famous designs, the ”Peacock Chair”, was first introduced in 1947. The chair was manufactured for a very long time by Johannes Hansen, later picked up and resumed by PP Møbler in 1992, as Wegner had upgraded the basic design in the late 1980’s.

In the 1950’s, American manufacturers obtained licenses for the mass production of Danish designs – keeping high standards of  craftsmanship at the beginning. Later the designs were altered to suit American tastes and American parts were introduced to reduce costs. When Sears and Woolworth’s entered the market, the Danes countered by producing new designs based on new materials. In the early 1960’s American manufacturers introduced molded plastic and wood-grained Formica as cheaper substitutes and the demand for Scandinavian Modern declined. Nevertheless, Scandinavian Modern is unlikely to ever go out of style. Today, the demand is worldwide from Australia to the US and the market is booming – from Jacobsen’s stylishly simple chairs to Wegner’s rounded, organic ones – displayed in top design showrooms and galleries across the globe as the ultimate image of modernity. An interesting clue: Hans J. Wegner (regarded as ”the master of the chair”, with more than 500 chair designs to his name) designed chairs for a long range of furniture manufacturers in Denmark: PP Møbler, Johannes Hansen, Carl Hansen & Son, Fritz Hansen, Getama, Fredericia Stolefabrik and many others. In his later years, Wegner entered the mass market through industrial furniture production. To this day, more than 25,000 of his best-selling “The Wishbone Chair or Y Chair” are sold each year. Mass-produced works of Hans J. Wegner, Finn Juhl and Arne Jacobsen are still in demand, but collectors are increasingly turning to limited production items from these and other great designers.

When buying classical Scandinavian Modern furniture pieces with investment in mind, I have to emphasize how essential it is to look for a design no longer in production (or re-issued); take as an example the Hans J. Wegner pieces produced by cabinet maker Johannes Hansen; one of his long version ‘Dolphin’ Chairs from 1950, recently sold for £75,650 at an auction.

…to be continued in part # 15

Copyright © 2010 – 2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.

Building up an icon (mass produced) – Part #2

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Fritz Hansen, also known as Republic of Fritz Hansen is a Danish furniture design company which was established in 1872 by the visionary cabinetmaker of the same name. Since then, Fritz Hansen has become a part of both Danish and international design history. In the early 20th century Christian E. Hansen, son of Fritz Hansen, started to experiment with steam bending beech, in the 30’s, the technique is so refined that Fritz Hansen is among the world leaders in the field, which later evolves into the firm’s expertise: furniture created in laminate wood. Fritz Hansen also launched the first Danish steel furniture.

Hansen´s first classic of the 40’s is the China™ Chair, designed by the progressive architect Hans. J. Wegner. Wegner’s China Chair was in production only a few years in the mid 40´s; it was not until its reintroduction in 1963 that the chair occupied a leading position among Fritz Hansen’s classics. This chair stands out as the only solid wood chair in the Fritz Hansen collection. Wegner designed furniture for PP Møbler, Johannes Hansen, Carl Hansen & Son, Fritz Hansen, Getama, Fredericia Stolefabrik and others, which are still produced under license today in Denmark. With more than 500 different chair designs Wegner is the most prolific Danish designer to date.

In the 50’s Arne Jacobsen dominates Fritz Hansen´s production. Influenced by Le Corbusier, Gunnar Asplund and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Jacobsen embraced a functionalist approach from the outset. He was among the first to introduce modernist ideas to Denmark and create industrial furniture that built up on its craft-based design heritage. Even though the collaboration between Jacobsen and Hansen started in 1934, the breakthrough comes when Arne creates the laminated Ant™ Chair in 1952. Originally, the Ant Chair was close to end up as just another prototype, because Fritz Hansen wasn’t convinced of the chair’s potential. The chair survived initial skepticism, when Arne guaranteed to buy all Ant chairs produced, if no one else would. The Ant Chair later gave rise to the success story of the Series 7™ Chair designed by Arne Jacobsen in 1955 with more than 5 Million chairs sold worldwide, by far the record sales chair in the history of Fritz Hansen. The introduction of the lamination technique and separable furniture impelled Arne Jacobsen´s and Fritz Hansen’s names into 20th century furniture history.

At the end of the 50´s Arne Jacobsen designed the Royal Hotel in Copenhagen and for that project he designed the Egg™ and the Swan™ Chairs, the Swan™ Sofa and Series 3300™. The two designer chairs originated in Jacobsen’s home garage and have been in production at Fritz Hansen ever since. In 1958 the Swan was a technologically innovative chair: no straight lines – only curves, a moulded shell of synthetic material on an aluminum star swivel base with a layer of cold foam covering the shell upholstered in fabric or leather.

Leading architects and furniture designers from all over the world have regularly contributed to Fritz Hansen´s furniture production. The stellar string of designers is long and the furniture of classic and iconic fame is even longer. Works of designers such as Poul Kjaerholm, Arne Jacobsen, Cecilie Manz, Hiromichi Konno, Piero Lissoni, Morten Voss, Bruno Mathsson, Todd Bracher, Hans J. Wegner, Hans S. Jacobsen, Kasper Salto, Pelikan Design, Jehs + Laub and Piet Hein are part of Hansen´s collection.

Congratulations! If this time your precious inheritance is a Series 7 chair you can be proud of the good taste and love for Danish design of your relative, but also you can think that your chair is “almost” a limited edition of 5 Million compared to the current 60 Million „Vienna coffee house chair“ model produced by Thonet. In the case of some other designs like the Swan Chair or the Egg Chair you can call it “rare” or scarce with only a few hundred thousand produced. To give you an idea, if you concentrate all the Series 7 chairs in New York City, only 25% of the population would own one. That´s what I call exclusivity!

As long as we are reviewing these furniture giants, we can only think that the talent and enormous capacity of 20th century designers is amazing, to mention only one remarkable Danish prodigy Mr. Hans J. Wegner, with more than 500 chair designs alone, but also I would like to say that I feel compelled to make some questions about the use of these new materials like laminate wood, cold foam, fiberglass, aluminum, tubular steel, etc. if they really have an intrinsic value that could push the prices to five figures for a brand new Swan Sofa or if it is only a matter of a lack of knowledge and information of the customer that still believes in the cliché of exclusivity, high end product, making a design statement, etc.

…to be continued in part # 3

Copyright © 2010-2017 Karin Goyer. All Rights Reserved.

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