Danish Modern

Arne Jacobsen gets his retrospective

The next time you find yourself swiveling playfully in a particularly comfortable and stylish chair, breathe a small prayer of thanks to Arne Jacobsen. Jacobsen designed a number of buildings (usually right down to the faucets and doorknobs), but he remains most famous for his furniture and for his minimalist Cylinda line of table- and cookware. His ubiquitous Swan, Ant, and Egg chairs are made by molding plywood or fiberglass into super-comfy shapes and then mounting them over rubber shock absorbers on a steel or epoxy base. Jacobsen conceived of chairs not as constructions but as hollow shells made to cocoon the human body; since their handsomeness derived not from fussy detail but exclusively from their simple forms, they could be mass-produced, as indeed they have been, in millions of copies.

This greatest of Danish modern designers was born a hundred years ago and died in 1971; his centennial has already been celebrated with the restoration and remodeling of one of his finest buildings, the Radisson SAS Royal Hotel, in Copenhagen, and by an exhibition in Oxford, England. This fall the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, in Humlebæk, north of Copenhagen, salutes Jacobsen with a full-scale retrospective (through January 12) that, in addition to his iconic chairs (such as the Number Seven Chair) and tables, includes period architectural models, garden layouts, and uncommonly whimsical designs for textiles and wallpaper.