Celebrating a golden age of Danish design

Egg chairs by Arne Jacobsen, as well as iconic sofa, among design classics at de Vere’s sale

The golden age of Danish design reigned from the 1940s through to the 1960s, with designers such as Niels Otto Møller, Finn Juhl and Arne Jacobsen coming to the fore. Functionalism and simplicity remained at the heart of this aesthetic, working under the slogan "form follows function".

In its first design sale of 2022 on Tuesday, May 24th, de Vere’s has some superb pieces from Danish designers, including two Egg chairs by Arne Jacobsen. Jacobsen created this chair for the lobby of the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen, which was as iconic as the chair, as it was Denmark’s first skyscraper and the world’s first designer hotel.

Jacobsen, who collaborated with Fritz Hansen, designed every last detail for the lodging, and some became the most celebrated of his career. Today, room 606 at the hotel, known as the Arne Jacobsen Suite, has been left untouched for six decades and has become an exhibit archive for some of his most recognisable pieces, including the Egg, Swan and Drop chairs.

Jacobsen found the perfect shape for the Egg chair by experimenting with wire and plaster in his garage, and it became a sculptural contrast to the vertical and horizontal surfaces of the hotel. Its curved organic form was to provide both comfort and privacy for the sitter in a public space. It is worth remembering that copies of these chairs are available online, but as they are unlicensed imitations, they have no resale value. The catalogue lists two (lots 26 and 27) Egg chairs, with a guide price of €2,000-€3,000 each.

Another design classic is the lovely set of six rosewood Model 79 dining chairs by Niels Otto Møller, where the rosewood accentuates the elegant curves created by master craftsmen (lot 11, €2,000-€4,000). The Juhl House, designed in 1942 by its eponymous craftsman Finn Juhl, marked the beginning of open-plan living. Using the best of materials, his organic furniture, designed for comfort, was first exported to the US, and as such, marked the international recognition of Danish design. A pair of Spade chairs by Finn Juhl, manufactured by France & Daverkosen, feature with their trademark sculpted “sling’ arm rests (lot 14, €2,000-€3,000).

For fans of Mies van der Rohe, lot 25 is a pair of Barcelona chairs, which the designer created for his 1929 German Pavilion at the International Exhibition in Barcelona from hand-buffed stainless steel or chrome. Each chair, which is one of the most iconic from the last century, has individual leather squares welded together. “This simple shape derives from a long history of precedents, from ancient Egyptian folding stools to 19th-century neoclassical seating,” according to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York (€4,000-€6,000).

Used on the film sets of Scarface, The Hunger Games and Black Mirror, the De Sede DS 600 non-stop sofa also earned its place in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest sofa. One example of the modular unit, which can accommodate various shapes and scales, had 400 sections. In black leather, lot 30 has 20 sections and measures five metres in a straight length (€10,000-€15,000).

Zig Zag chair

Another piece of furniture history is the Zig Zag chair by Gerrit Rietveld, who delivered one of the earliest examples of a cantilevered seat, constructed completely from wood. The 1930s witty design was the response from Rietveld, when asked by Dutch department shop Metz & Co to create a chair for mass production. Described by the Dutch designer and architect as "not a chair but a designer's joke", the chair, which consists of just four slices of elm with dovetail joints, the armless, legless sliver of a seat, is actually comfortable and sturdy.

The seat in de Vere’s sale is a collectors’ item, as it was purchased directly from Rietveld in the 1960s, “making it a truly unique piece of 20th century design”, according to catalogue notes (lot 28, €8,000-€12,000).

The Zig Zag was a hit with designer Karl Lagerfeld, from whose atelier lot 30 hails. The limited edition toy, by Karl Lagerfeld X Medicom, known as Coco Chanel Be@RBrick, is listed at €2,000-€4,000. "Bricks are collectible toys that have stood at the intersection of art, fashion and design," according to catalogue notes. First released in 2001, Lagerfeld designed the Coco Chanel Bearbrick in 2006/2007, in aid of the Hong Kong Cancer Foundation. It could achieve a higher price, given the eye-watering sums paid in Sotheby's sales last year for the designer's curated belongings, which have already achieved more than €18 million.

Contemporary art

For some contemporary art, Herman and Wilkinson's online art sale is currently open and ends May 9th. Highlights of the sale include last year's Zurich Portrait Prize winner Salvatore of Lucan, along with David Booth and Patrick Graham. It also features works by Bríd Higgins Ní Chinnéide and Shane Berkery, the proceeds of which will be donated to charities in aid of Ukraine.

deveres.ie, herman.ie

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