Hans J Wegner: an icon of Nordic design from Tønder

Hans J Wegner – A Nordic Design Icon from Tønder

Inaugurated on April 5, the famous Danish furniture designer Hans J Wegner would have been 100 years old. The art museum in Tønder will mark the occasion by organizing an exhibition and publishing a book that focuses on Wegner’s relationship with his hometown of Tønder and his overall importance to Nordic design.

The only permanent exhibition of Wegner in Denmark is presented in the old water tower of Tønder. Known ostensibly for his elegant seating designs, the chairs were all donated by Wegner himself. These are, as he puts it: “My 37 best chairs”.

Hans J Wegner was born in the town of Tønder in 1914. The exhibition of his life and work will cover more than 700 m² at the museum. It includes over 150 pieces of furniture, lamps, works of art, tools and other items that illustrate the story of Wegner’s relationship with Tønder both in his youth and in his old age. The museum exhibit covers Wegner’s life story from his growing childhood. in his father’s shoemaker’s workshop. He also describes Wegner’s artistic period as a youth which resulted in drawings, paintings and sculptures. The exhibition also focuses on Wegner’s education as a furniture maker in Herman Stahlberg’s studio and shows why Tønder’s water tower ultimately became a museum showcase for Wegner’s best chairs. Finally, the exhibition shows how Wegner became one of the most famous Scandinavian designers.

The Tønder Art Museum is an award-winning museum for Nordic art and design. One of his main areas of interest is to describe the major role Wegner played in the history of Nordic design, especially in terms of the ‘golden age’ of Nordic design in the 1950s and 1960s. L The Museum’s exhibition also focuses on the important role Wegner played historically and the role he still plays today in defining the term, brand and quality that characterize “Scandinavian design”.

The Tønder Museum invited five contemporary Nordic designers to associate their own design process with Wegner in one way or another and create totally new design pieces. In doing so, they shed important light on Wegner’s design heritage in a contemporary context. The five designers are: David Ericsson from Sweden, Caroline Olsson from Norway, Harri Koskinen from Finland, Dögg Gudmundsdottir from Iceland and Søren Ulrik Petersen from Denmark.

The Tønder Art Museum is also publishing a 380-page book related to the exhibition. The book includes articles on Wegner’s education in Tønder written by cultural historian Elsemarie Dam-Jensen. There is also an article on Wegner’s furniture design from 1938 to 1949 written by art and design historian Kirsten Hegner. The importance of Wegner in the context of Nordic design history is written by art and design curator Anne Blond.

Finally, there is an article regarding the reception of Wegner’s design and Nordic design abroad, especially in Great Britain, written by Barry Phipps, fellow of the University of Cambridge. The book also contains analyzes of each of Wegner’s 36 chairs in Tønder’s water tower. The book contains three special case studies in which Wegner participated. There is also a discussion with the five contemporary Nordic designers and their views on Wegner and Nordic design in general. There are interviews with Wegner’s two daughters and furniture makers Bernt, Ejnar Pedersen and Henry Fisker, who are the only craftsmen alive today who have actually worked closely with the Danish design icon.

The book will be published in Danish on April 5 and in English in summer 2014.

Hans J Wegner – A Nordic Design Icon from Tønder
April 5 to November 2, 2014
Tønder Art Museum, Denmark

Pictures Torben Eskerod

About Gertrude H. Kerr

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