Given his status as design national hero, it's no surprise that the Danes are celebrating the hundredth anniversary of Hans J Wegner's birth on multiple fronts. The Sønderjyllands Kunstmuseum in Tønder, Wegner's hometown, is honouring its favourite son with a new show that explores his childhood and training as a furniture maker at the local workshop of Herman Stahlberg.
Housed in an old water tower, the art museum is home to the only permanent Wegner exhibition in the country: a collection of what the designer called 'my 37 best chairs'. The new exhibition, 'Hans J Wegner: A Nordic Design Icon from Tønder', opens tomorrow on what would have been his 100th birthday and will include 150 pieces spanning not only furniture and lamps, but also art works and tools.
The museum has also invited five contemporary Nordic designers - David Ericsson from Sweden, Caroline Olsson from Norway, Harri Koskinen from Finland, Dögg Gudmundsdottir from Iceland and Søren Ulrik Petersen from Denmark - to create new pieces that draw creative inspiration from the Wegnerian legacy. A sizeable 380-page tome in Danish will be published by the museum to accompany the show, with an English version slated to be release in summer.
Already open at the Designmuseum Danmark in Copenhagen is 'Wegner: Just One Good Chair'. This survey uses 150 original pieces, 50 new versions of his designs, as well as drawings, photos and models, to show how Wegner's 'organic modernism' was rooted in traditional Danish craftsmanship and woodworking, and how he 'rationalised' those traditions for the industrial age.
It also places Wegner's work in the context of work by his contemporaries such as Charles and Ray Eames, Finn Juhl, Arne Jacobsen and Mies van der Rohe and looks at how he has influenced contemporary designers such as Jasper Morrison, Naoto Fukasawa, Tadeo Ando and Konstantin Grcic. Similarly, the Designmuseum has also produced its own book: a reprint of Christian Holmsted Olesens' tome (from which the exhibition takes it name), with new material and photographs.
Wegner's centenary is also being marked next week during the Salone del Mobile in Milan. Furniture manufacturer PP Møbler, who worked closely with the designer during his life, is showing all of the pieces it produced in collaboration with him as well as launching the 'Tub Chair', a Wegner design that has never been put into production before. (For more on the new launch turn to our May issue, out on 10 April).
Paul Smith, a dedicated fan of Danish design, is showing his own Wegner tribute in Milan, re-upholstering a range of Wegner-designed chairs from Carl Hansen & Søn. The fashion designer's trademark stripes textiles have been produced in collaboration with Maharam. Carl Hansen & Søn, meanwhile, has re-adopted a Wegner-devised logo it dropped in the 1980s and put his 'CH88' chair into production, another of Wegner's endless chair designs - he came up with 500 during his lifetime - that didn't make it past the prototype stage.