What chair are you sitting on? Is it comfortable? Is it functional? Is it aesthetically pleasing? All this and more is put into consideration in the furniture designer’s mind. Designers to me are “practical artists” and I am always in awe of their talent, even more so for not wallowing in personal artistic angst. Channeling one’s artistic vision into something to be used in everyday life is truly admirable, and not as appreciated as I think it should be.
Fortunately, people are becoming more aware. Seoul has been touted as a design capital in recent years; more and more people are trying to bring in beauty as an essential element in their everyday lives. There particularly has also been an escalation in exhibitions regarding living design. Not only are people interested in national designers, but international designers and their work are greatly appreciated as well.
“Scandinavian living design” might not be that familiar to Koreans, but when faced with actual products, many would go “Ahhh…” with recognition. Among the prominent Scandinavian designers, the late Danish architect/designer Finn Juhl was probably one of the most recognizable, especially for his furniture.
An exhibition in honor of the 100th anniversary of Juhl’s birth is going on at the Daelim Museum in Seoul. Originally educated as an architect, Juhl started incorporating his eye for structure and modern art into furniture design in the late 1930s. He continued to design furniture by collaborating with cabinet maker Niels Vodder until the 1960s; modern wooden furniture with soft lines and functional details were his specialty. Juxtaposition and harmony of soft and hardf textures were another.
Although heavily criticized in the beginning, his designs were greatly influential not only to other Danish designers but also worldwide. The current exhibition showcases his most representative work along with the works of his fellow Scandinavian designers of the same era, mainly chairs. Many, many, many chairs:
Juhl was also involved in interior design – a natural extension of his architectural background – and the exhibit also features snippets of Scandinavian decorating within the home.
Chairs (or the frames of chairs) as art. This room was filled with “chair trees” and an ancient wooden TV set, all in interesting harmony:
Besides letting the visitors take photographs, what I really liked about the exhibition was the interactive gallery at the top floor. Visitors can pose in a Finn Juhl chair and take a digital photo, which is later uploaded to the museum’s homepage and can be downloaded later on.
The museum is more like an intimate gallery, with quiet nooks and crannies where you can sit and think, it also has an outdoor café where you can get rest and breathe in the rare quiet.
As Koreans say, “Hearing of it 100 times does not equal seeing it once”, so drop by and have a look. The museum is right across the street from Gyeongbok Palace.
100th Anniversary of the Birth of Finn Juhl
- April 26th, 2012 ~ September 23rd, 2012
- Open Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 am to 6:00 pm
- Entrance fee: 5,000 won (General)
35-1 Tongui-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
(Right across the street from Gyeongbok Palace to the west)
Transportation and details available at official site (Korean, English)
An English audio MP3 guide is also available for download