Chair made of foamed polymer

Gunnar Aagaard Andersen (1919-1982)
Design Museum Denmark, Copenhagen Se kort

By Charlotte Jul, skribent, editor and curator, 2006


Gunnar Aagaard Andersen was sculptor, architect, designer and painter. His artistic starting point was somewhere between simple minimalism and abstract, colourful expressionism. Aagaard Andersen created everything from interiors and wallpaper to textiles, sculptures and furniture. 
The Chair made of foamed polymer is the work of the artist as well as the designer. The challenge and experiment consisted in creating a piece of furniture in one process, in one unbroken form and in one material - a comment on Chesterfield furniture. Imagine how amazing this chair must have been in a time without colour TV and the Internet! 

Material as the designer 

Aagaard Andersen was fascinated by the whipped cream-like polyether material consisting of urethane, water and freon. It had a life of its own thanks to gravitation. He poured out the liquid material layer by layer. When it dried, it became strong and took on a tempered, leathery surface. 

Importance of the artistic touch 

Gunnar Aagaard Andersen is particularly interesting, because his work spanned different disciplines and skills - well ahead of his time. His artistic approach to design was an inspiration to furniture manufacturers, designers and architects alike, because it differed from what they were used to. The Chair made of foamed polymer was and remains an icon. In 1966, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York purchased the chair for its permanent design collection and four other chairs have been sold to museums around the world. In Denmark, it is part of the furniture collection of the Danish Museum of Art & Design. 

Aagaard’s far-reaching inspiration 

Today, Gunnar Aagaard Andersen remains an example for many designers. Ceramic artist Ole Jensen, himself represented in the shop at MoMA, is strongly inspired by Aagaard Andersen, and designers Nanna and Jørgen Ditzel designed several interiors in collaboration with Aagaard. Other design icons such as Poul Henningsen, Hans Wegner and Arne Jacobsen also worked together with the multi-talented artist. Internationally, Aagaard Andersen’s ability to depart from the predictable influenced the Pop Art movement and early postmodernism, among other schools.

Chair made of foamed polymer, 1964, Designmuseet. Photo : Pernille Klemp.

Did you know?

Source: Jens Jørgen Thorsen: Aagaard Andersen, Det danske Kunstindustrimuseum, s. 118, 1985.

Aagaard Andersen created the chair by pouring the liquid material out of a garden hose. He did it twelve times in succession and let each layer dry before the next. Per Mollerup writes about the material and Aagaard Andersen's chair: "... the chairs disappear with time, they literally go up into the blue air when they years after years are exposed to sunlight. That property you rather saw associated with so many other furnitures!" 

The committee's justification

By the Committee for Design and Arts, 2006

Gunnar Aagaard Andersen was one of the major innovators of Danish art after the Second World War. He experimented unceasingly with expressions and materials and broke all genre boundaries. His 1964 foam polymer chair can be found – defined as artwork – at MoMA in New York, among other places. Here in Denmark, it is in The Design Museum as a furniture experiment.
At the time, foam polymer was a new material that fascinated many international artists, with its ability to be shaped in completely new ways. It could be foamed into shapes evoking whipped cream, or, as American Claes Oldenburg or the younger Dane Susanne Ussing did, it could be put in bags and moulds that gave it fascinating, rather unpredictable and soft shapes.

Softness was considered something that broke boundaries at the time, before flower power had emerged, and Aagaard Andersen’s chair exerted a long-term international influence when pop art and post-modernism broke through from the end of the 1970s.
Aagaard Andersen contributed to the development of Danish furniture design in many ways. For many years he collaborated with Hans Wegner at the PP Møbler workshop and his experiments bore fruit including a small stool, which became a popular product. An entire generation of younger artists and designers found inspiration in his methods and designs: for example, he was the first to make the design that later became Panton’s plastic chair, only he made it in wire and newspaper.


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