chairs in the collection of Designmuseum Danmark sown in the display designed by Boris Berlin that was completed in 2016
Designmuseum Danmark have just published a book about chairs … all the chairs are in the collection of the museum; mostly chairs from the 20th century and mostly Danish chairs although there are several chairs made in the 19th century - an English Windsor Chair, an American Shaker Chair and Chinese chairs - because their forms influenced Danish design and there are some modern international designs with chairs from England, Italy, Austria, Germany and the USA.
There are separate entries for nine stools and for 104 chairs, for what is essentially a catalogue, each given 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.
Descriptions for each chair are succinct - just two of the chairs have a text that goes into a second paragraph - most are of just over a hundred words although several are shorter.
This gives the book a clear and tight discipline.
Because it is not a continuous narrative text, it reads more like museum labels and this is appropriate as the book accompanies the new display of the collection of chairs in the museum that was designed by Boris Berlin and was completed in 2016.
With a relatively unusual format - the book is 150 mm wide and 270 mm high - the initial impression is that this is a handbook or even a pocket guide but at 32 mm thick and printed on heavy, good-quality paper this is a hefty book and would need a large pocket.
Although tall and narrow, when it is open the double spread of facing pages gives a pleasant square format for those double-page spreads. Actually, my only criticism of the book is that interesting historic photographs and illustrations placed across two pages are broken and distorted by a tight gutter.
Christian Holmsted Olesen is a curator at the museum and was the author of the book Wegner - just one good chair that was published as the main catalogue for the exhibition on the work of Hans Wegner at Designmuseum Danmark in 2014. His introduction here is short but wide ranging and puts chair design in the much wider context of Danish design in the 20th century.
The aim is to show "how the so-called Golden Age of Danish furniture design was shaped by the study and refinement of historical furniture types," so the chairs in the book are grouped by type … so by form of construction. These divisions are slightly different from the categorisation of form types in the exhibition - presumably to be less specifically Danish and slightly more obvious for the foreign reader. Shaker chairs, the Chinese chairs and steam-bent chairs and the Klismos type of chair and round arm chairs in the museum display have been re-arranged and the groups given new names with a new category in the book for "Peasant chairs" - here including the influential Shaker chair from the collection and the Church Chair byKaare Klint and the People's Chair by Børge Mogensen - and the rest are divided between Bentwood and Frame.
In the book the categories are:
Folding stools and chairs
Low easy chairs
Each section is prefaced by a list of the specific chairs of that type or of that form along with the useful outline sketches that were developed for the information panels in the exhibition.
The book concludes with profiles of nine prominent and influential Danish designers …. Kaare Klint, Mogens Koch, Ole Wanscher, Børge Mogensen, Hans Wegner, Finn Juhl, Arne Jacobsen, Poul Kjærholm and Verner Panton.
Again, short accounts but authoritative - for the general reader wanting more information for context - and finally there is a short but again useful list of recommended books for finding out more.
The Danish Chair an international affair
by Christian Holmsted Olesen
Designmuseum Danmark with Strandberg Publishing 2018
layout and cover design: Rasmus Koch Studio