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Hans J. Wegner exhibition at Vitra Schaudepot

Hans J. Wegner at his drawing board. Photo: Wilstrup

The Wishbone Chair, the Peacock Chair, the Round Chair: the names of the designs by Hans Jørgensen Wegner are simple but striking, the same as his works themselves. They unite an expressive aesthetic, practical functionalism and Danish craftsmanship. That’s why the Danish furniture designer is one of the most important Scandinavian representatives of post-war modernism.

The exhibition “Hans J. Wegner: Designing Danish Modern” in the Vitra Schaudepot presents a selection of his most important designs until 3rd of June and illuminates the background details and historical context in which they were created. The exhibition is complemented by diverse photographs and films that illustrate Wegner’s design process and principles. Works by his contemporaries are on display in the Vitra Schaudepot, along with a number of historical objects that served as inspiration for the designer.

Design sketches for the Flag Halyard Chair, © Hans J Wegners Tegnestue

Hans J. Wegner was trained to be a cabinetmaker at the Copenhagen School of Arts and Crafts. He belonged to a generation of designers including Arne Jacobsen, Børge Mogensen, Finn Juhl and Poul Kjaerholm that brought Scandinavian design into the entire world. Over the course of his career, Wegner created more than 1000 designs, of which around 150 are still manufactured today. As the most productive furniture-maker of his generation, he played a major role in shaping the style that has come to be known and cherished as “Scandinavian furniture design”.

He responded to the resource shortage of the postwar era with highly material-efficient designs, in strict adherence to the principle of “no more than absolutely necessary”. Wegner did not strive for pure asceticism or extreme austerity, but freely incorporated expressive shapes as a proponent of Organic Modernism. He took inspiration from classics of modern furniture design or historical furniture types from foreign cultures and reinterpreted them in his own signature style.

Wegner had his international breakthrough with the “Round Chair” (1950: It rose to prominence in the 1961 televised debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy. Both presidential candidates sat in The Chair during the debate. The other day the American magazine Interiors simply referred to as “The Chair”. The world-renowned design was inspired by Chinese chairs from the eighteenth century. Another key work is the Peacock Chair (1947), which was modelled on English Windsor chairs from the nineteenth century and imbued with a poetic sculptural form in Wegner’s reinterpretation.

Also on display of the exhibition is JH512 (1949), a folding chair that makes direct reference to Mies van der Rohe’s famous Barcelona Chair. It was originally intended for smaller residences. Along with his more classic-looking pieces, the Danish designer also created surprising and radical furnishings, such as the UFO-like Flag Halyard Chair (1950) or the Three-Legged Shell Chair (1963) in a brilliant shade of red, which comes across as Scandinavia’s answer to the plywood furniture of Charles and Ray Eames.

Vitra Schaudepot
Charles-Eames-Straße 2
79576 Weil am Rhein

Duration: until 3 June 2018
Opening hours: daily, 10 am – 6 pm