Finn Juhl: Architectural Furniture Designer
In the spring and summer of 2019, Nationalmuseum mounted an exhibition about the Danish architect and furniture designer Finn Juhl. One of the most influential Scandinavian furniture designers of the 20th century was presented through an exclusive selection of his furniture, artwork and crafts. The furniture and furnishings on display came from Finn Juhl’s home in Ordrup, outside Copenhagen, which he designed and decorated for himself in 1942.
The exhibition presented Finn Juhl as one of the most influential Scandinavian furniture designers of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. His designs are characterised by a perfectionistic attention to detail, an intuitive sense for materials, and innovative thinking about constructions and the combination of materials. The furniture was usually produced in small artisanal series in collaboration with the master carpenter Niels Vodder. Yet Juhl was also one of the first Danish designers to design furniture for large-scale production in which the level of detail and joinery techniques of small-scale production were transferred to more industrial production.
During the 1950s, Finn Juhl had a major impact in the USA. He was introduced to that market by Edgar Kaufmann Jr., then the curator of the industrial design department at the Museum of Modern Art, as well as through furniture shows in the Georg Jensen store, a trend-setting venue for the presentation of Scandinavian design in New York. He was also commissioned to furnish the UN headquarters in New York and the Danish Embassy in Washington. From 1956–1961, Finn Juhl worked on an extensive project for Scandinavian Airlines in which he created a design profile for the company through interiors in both terminals and aircraft. During the 1970s, new materials, changing manufacturing processes and altered style ideals contributed to a decline in interest in his designs. In 1982 a retrospective exhibition of Finn Juhl’s work was presented at Designmuseum in Copenhagen, resulting in a revival of the hype surrounding the designer as well as newly aroused Japanese interest in his designs. Today, Finn Juhl’s original furniture and other items designed by him are extremely desirable icons on the auction market.
The exhibition presented the original interiors of Finn Juhl’s house through pictures in various formats, together with around 25 original pieces of furniture and luminaires and works of art from his home by Asger Jorn, Erik Thommessen and Vilhelm Lundstrøm, among others, as well as handicrafts by the textile artist Vibeke Klint and the ceramicist Alev Siesbye. Finn Juhl’s house and its original interiors were added to the collection of the Ordrupgaard museum through a private donation in 2008, and was opened for visitors the same year. Ordrupgaard was closed for renovations during the exhibition period at Nationalmuseum and will reopen in 2020. This enabled the generous loan of furniture and furnishings from Finn Juhl’s home.