Over the course of this year, Manchester Art Gallery is showcasing a comprehensive exhibition on Nordic Craft and Design. In celebration of the exhibition, The Conran Shop ventures north to discover the best furniture, fashion and ceramics that Nordic designers and craftspeople have to offer.
Set under the ornate ceilings of Manchester Art Gallery, the exhibition hall plays host to original design pieces from internationally renowned and up-and-coming Nordic designers, all united by their heritage and the philosophy that good design enhances our quality of life.
Taking visitors on a tour through Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, the exhibition features an amalgamation of furniture, fashion, lighting, ceramics, glass, metalwork and jewellery, all of which exemplify Nordic design.
Famed for always resting on the forefront of design, using new materials and discovering innovative techniques, Nordic furniture is characterised by a simplicity, minimalism and functionality that epitomises the concept of mid-century design.
Featuring classic pieces such as Finn Juhl’s 1961 Glove Cabinet, Kaare Klint’s 1933 Safari Chair and the 1958 Artichoke Pendant Light by Poul Henningsen, the exhibition does a thorough job of exploring the best of the best from Nordic designers across the years, with an in-depth focus on iconic chairs.
Pioneers of mid-century design, early Nordic designers explored natural materials and how furniture interacts with the human body, creating classics such as Finn Juhl’s 1949 Chieftain Chair. Cleverly designed to offer a wide array of seating positions, the iconic chair features armrests perfectly suited to lounging and a seat large enough to fully relax on.
Ergonomically designed and attuned to the curves of the human body, Ilmari Tapiovaara’s 1946 Domus Chair is another example of this human-led approach. Intended to support hours of studying, the chair’s ergonomic curved seat conforms to the body in a comfortable way that supports good posture.
It wasn’t until the 1960s that ground-breaking Nordic designers began to experiment with pop colours, creating inimitable pieces like the Panton Chair, designed by Verner Panton in 1960.
Inspired by traditional plastic buckets, Panton explored the opportunities that came with new and emerging materials. The first chair to be moulded from a single piece of plastic, this stackable icon is the winner of many international awards and holds iconic status in the history of design.
With this vibrant development in style came colourful variations of classic designs, notably Arne Jacobsen’s 1949 Series 7 Chair. Beautifully crafted by Fritz Hansen from a single piece of formed plywood, the chairs are finished in vibrantly-hued lacquers for a statement finish.
Nestled amongst the hoards of exhibits from the 20th century are select works by British makers who have been influenced heavily by Nordic design, as well as pieces by present-day Nordic designers.
An excellent example of contemporary design is the sculptural Spun Chaise Lounge by Danish designer Mathias Bengtsson, which he designed between 2002 and 2004. Innovatively created using a technique developed by NASA, the chair is fashioned using a continuous piece of carbon-fibre for a delicate yet surprisingly robust finish.
Accompanied by a comprehensive exploration of the vast genre of Nordic crafts, from Marimekko’s Lokki Dress and a hat by Aage Thaarup, to a delightful selection of ceramic Moomin pieces, the Nordic Craft and Design exhibition is a must see this season.
The Nordic Craft and Design exhibition is on display at Manchester Art Gallery from 6th July 2018 until 7th July 2019.