Objects of desire
PUBLISHED: 09:00 13 May 2014
Sapphire Living Space is fast becoming the South West’s go-to for the best in classic designs from the 20th century and beyond. This month we salivate superlatively over the 1963 Shell Chair by Hans J. Wegner
Hans J. Wegner was born in 1914 in Tønder. At the age of 17 he was apprenticed to a carpenter and it was at this time that he developed his first design. At the age of 20 he moved to Copenhagen to study at the institution now known as The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Design but which back then went under the more modest title of “The Artisan College.”
A master carpenter first and a designer second Wegner designed the Shell Chair in 1963 which was presented at a Danish furniture exhibition. While some critics loved the avant-garde design, the general public was slow to accept the chair’s bold lines and initial sales were poor. Produced only in very limited quantities during the 1960s, Wegner’s “Three-legged Shell Chair” began to fetch handsome prices at international auctions in the 1980s and 1990s.
When Carl Hansen & Son re-introduced the chair in 1998, it immediately won several design awards. While it stands on only three legs, this chair has an absolute stability that could only be achieved by someone with Wegner’s expertise. Wegner’s belief that a chair “should be beautiful from all sides and angles” is especially evident with his Shell Chair.
Wegner has received a number of prizes and recognitions. Amongst other things, he is an honorary member of The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and has received an honorary doctorate from the Royal College of Art in London. He was also the first ever recipient of the Lunning Prize and received the 8th International Design Award in Osaka, Japan. His works are exhibited at major international museums including The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York and Die Neue Sammlung in Munich.
Hans J. Wegner died in Denmark in January 2007