CULTURE

Combining function with comfort

The golden age of Danish design may be well over, yet something of its principle of functional objects which are intended to improve living standards continues to the present day and gives Danish design a character of its own. «Use it! Danish Design in Everyday Life,» at the Athens Concert Hall’s exhibition space shows, by its very title, the democratic, socially conscious aspect of Danish design. The show, which includes furniture and other design objects from the 1950s and 60s through today, is different from standard exhibitions on designs in that it invites the viewer to also handle and use the objects. Organized by the Danish Design Center in collaboration with Megaron Plus and the Arts Department of the Danish Ministry of Culture, this touring show was first presented at EXPO 2005 in Tokyo and is now being shown for the first time in Europe. Curators Tine Nygaard, Charlotte Jul and the artists Bosch & Fjord have aimed for an exhibition that shows representative pieces of Danish design (there are also some contemporary fashion creations) and invokes thought as to how design can help create a more comfortable life style. Functional, «intelligent» and user-friendly objects set the exhibition’s tone. A characteristic example is the «Kangaroo,» a bicycle with a two-seat, protected cubicle at the front for transporting children. It was designed in 2004 by Leif Hagerup & Lars Malmborg. «Use It!» points to the democratic, socially conscious trait of Danish design. Besides furniture and objects made for children, the exhibition includes several objects that cater to the handicapped. Examples include «Cheetah,» a flexible wheelchair for youngsters, and the «Microsound Pilot,» which is a device for the hearing-impaired. Individually adjustable panties for colostomy patients are perhaps a bit unsettling to see yet they are extremely useful objects which show the social sensitivity of Danish design. One of the mottos of the exhibition is «Help Creates Independence.» In the exhibition one will also find design with playfulness, inventiveness and flexibility. «Seesaw» is a tilting sofa that is fun to use. A wooden ladder designed by Cecilie Manz, which can also be used as a seat, emphasizes versatility and functionality. There is also a beautiful selection of chairs. Those which stand out the most are from the great names of Danish design of the 1950s and 60s. The «Chieftain Chair,» a comfortable armchair with a totem-like shaped back in black leather, was designed in 1949 by Finn Juhl, one of the best-known designers of the Danish modern style, the style that became so popular throughout the world in the 1940s and 50s. Organic, rounded shapes and natural materials inspired by abstract sculpture are defining traits in much of Danish postwar design. Hans J. Wegner’s «Ox Chair,» also shown in the exhibition, brings to mind the shape of an animal. The concave back of Borge Mogensen’s «Shell Chair» from 1948 and its smoothly rounded outlines offer another typical example of the Danish modern aesthetic. Other classics include Arne Jacobsen’s «Egg Chair» from 1957. Besides its enveloping shape, an innovation of this particular design is that it required new production methods in order to fit the fabric upholstery to an unusual shape. The three-legged «Ant Chair,» also by Jacobsen, was the first Danish chair designed for large-scale production and the most commercially successful design by Jacobsen. There is also Verner Panton’s stacking chair (the world’s first form-molded plastic chair), which was designed in 1960 and entered commercial production in 1967. It is thanks to those classic early pieces that Danish design earned a worldwide reputation and entered the history of modern design. Contemporary designers follow the steps of their predecessors. They aim at the same kind of innovation and share their concern for making design a tool that upgrades our standard of living. «Use it! Danish Design in Everyday Life,» at the Athens Concert Hall’s exhibition space (Vas. Sofias & Kokalli, 210.728.2000), through June 18. Open 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Free entrance. Danish culture in Athens The exhibition on Danish design is part of a broader program of events presenting Danish culture in Greece. The exhibition has been organized by the Danish Ministry of Culture in Greece. The events include an exhibition on Danish contemporary art, curated by Katerina Gregos and held at the Ileana Tounda contemporary art center (to July 23), and an exhibition on the archaeological and cultural activities of the Danish Institute in Athens (to June 13). A tribute to Danish film was held in late May both in Athens and Thessaloniki. In October, a symposium is scheduled to take place on the late Danish writer Karen Blixen, also known by her pen name, Isak Dineson, who wrote «Out of Africa.»