Poul Kjærholm's Breakthrough

Usually, architects create their masterpieces during their careers, but Kjærholm struck gold right out of the gate with his steel and flag halyard chair "PK 25". He designed it in 1951 as part of his final project at the Danish School of Arts and Crafts, and at the summer's design auction in Copenhagen, we have two of the very first examples of the chair.

The chair "PK 25" marks the beginning of a quintessential career in Danish design history and is considered by many to be Poul Kjærholm's true masterpiece. The two examples of the auction are among the very first production models and were made as early as 1952.

An Assignment from Hans J. Wegner

Originally, Kjærholm was trained as a cabinetmaker in Hjørring, but in 1949 he was admitted to the Danish School of Arts and Crafts. Here, he became a student of Hans J. Wegner, who saw great potential in the young, ambitious Jutlander, who, like Wegner himself, had a background in the carpentry business. In 1951, Wegner formulated an exam assignment for his students, where they had to consider a particular architect and design a living room for this architect. Afterward, the students had to make a furniture piece based on one of their designs. For his project, Kjærholm chose the Danish architect Halldor Gunnløgsson, who was especially known for his refined modernist single-family housing. The meeting with Gunnløgsson concerning Kjærholm's final project was the beginning of a lifelong friendship and professional collaboration between the two architects.

Kjærholm's Transformation of Steel

In his final project designing Gunnløgsson's living room, Kjærholm sought out several directions that would later come to characterize his work, but the furniture piece he chose to make as part of his exam was the "PK 25". In the chair, you can easily see the inspiration from Wegner's “Flag Halyard Chair” from 1950. During his studies, Kjærholm had been employed at Wegner's architect studio, and with "PK 25" he copied the materials from his teacher's chair in the form of flag halyard rope and steel. With his carpentry skills, Kjærholm was able to transform the cold, industrial steel into beautiful craftsmanship. The stroke of genius consisted of bending the steel as if it were a paper airplane and avoiding the use of joints and welding. This transformation of steel into an almost organic material is characteristic of Kjærholm's furniture and elevates his designs to a league of their own in Danish furniture history.

The First Production Models from 1952

"PK 25" paved the way for a brief period of employment for Kjærholm with the furniture manufacturer Fritz Hansen, and in 1952 the chair was put into very limited production at the company. The examples offered at this auction were the very first production models and, funnily enough, come from the home of the person originally intended as the owner of the chair, i.e. Gunnløgsson. He apparently found Kjærholm's ideas for his living room appealing and therefore acquired the chairs for his home. Today, dedicated collectors most often prefer furniture from the legendary collaborator E. Kold Christensen when they are in search of a Kjærholm treasure. The peculiar circumstance about "PK 25" is that here the "original" examples of the chair actually originate from Fritz Hansen, who was the first manufacturer of the design. Kold Christensen only began manufacturing the chair around 1955, before Fritz Hansen once again took over production in 1982 after Kjærholm's death.

Poul Kjærholm: “PK 25”. A pair of early chairs with hand forged frames of matte chromed steel. Seat and back with flag halyard rope. Estimate: DKK 600,000-800,000.

Watch our design specialist Peter Kjelgaard talk about Poul Kjærholm's “PK 25” chair.



18 June at 4 pm


For further information, please contact:

Peter Kjelgaard: +45 8818 1191 · pkj@bruun-rasmussen.dk

Amalie Hansen: +45 8818 1194 · amh@bruun-rasmussen.dk

Anna Berger Widenborg: +45 8818 1187 · awi@bruun-rasmussen.dk

Andreas Krabbe: +45 8818 1193 · ank@bruun-rasmussen.dk

Kristina Ulfvik: +45 8818 1197 · kru@bruun-rasmussen.dk

Poul Svalgaard Henriksen: +45 8818 1132 · psh@bruun-rasmussen.dk