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While I’m in Denmark, you can be too. . . .

Though it centers on dancing, SEEING THINGS means to look at other food for the eye as well. Here’s some that’s available at a mere click: From the menu in the left hand column, choose “Design after 1900,” then scroll down and click on “for a comprehensive view of 20th century Danish chairs”; next, click on the pale turquoise box that says “DANSKE STOLE,” and vaersgo, as the Danes say—there you are!

Explanation: Denmark’s weather is so often gloomy and its hours of winter daylight so few, the Danes sagely tend to stay home a lot. They’ve made the most of their confined situation, cultivating the home arts, among them designs for living—furniture, lighting, glass- and tableware—to breathtaking levels of achievement. A peak era of this accomplishment, extending from the second decade of the 20th century through the fifties, came to be called Danish Modern, and chairs are arguably its most potent product. Classic Danish Modern chairs, by the likes of Kaare Klint, Arne Jacobsen, Finn Juhl, and Hans J. Wegner, are nothing less than pieces of sculpture—and now, as you see, there’s a website to prove it.

Copenhagen’s Kunstindustri Museum (the Danish Museum of Decorative Art, to its English-speaking friends), has essentially created a mini-museum online. For openers, it presents a 65-item thumbnail-scale parade of icon-status chairs. Click on one that seizes your eye and it’s delivered enlarged, along with as many as a half dozen alternative views (also enlargeable). You get to see your chosen chair every which way, as if you were walking around it. You also get to gaze down on it, as if you were the God of Furniture, seeing the object and declaring it to be good. Additional shots offer close-ups of sensuous details—the sinuous curve of the chair’s back or legs, the sleekness of the joins. This is far more access than any museum or, for that matter, any of the several Copenhagen shops devoted to vintage Danish furniture can provide. Granted, these are photographs; you’re not in the same room as the chair. But the photos are superb—so clear and deep-dimensioned, they seem almost tactile.

Words, words, words. The Kunstindustri Museum site as a whole offers an English-language version, but the chairs segment hasn’t yet undergone translation. So if your Danish is non-existent, corollary information such as the designers’ bios and the explanation of technical terms will remain undecipherable. But the meticulously cross-referenced Chairs remains eminently negotiable. Søg means “search”; alle means “all”; “chairs” are stole, and here at you almost feel you’re sitting in them—at home, at ease, embraced by beauty.

© 2003 Tobi Tobias

an ArtsJournal blog