Philip Arctander’s “Clam chair”

A previously overlooked chair, better known as the "Clam chair” has gone on to achieve star status on the international auction market. However, it turns out it was not made by a Norwegian designer named Martin Olsen after all, but by the Danish designer Philip Arctander.

Philip Arctander: "Clam". Easy chair with round armrests and legs of beech. Seat and back upholstered with light fabric fitted with buttons. Designed 1944. Made in the late 1940s by Nordisk Staal- & Møbel Central. Hammer price: DKK 150,000.

Advertisement for Nordisk Staal- & Møbel Central in the Danish magazine "Bygge og Bo", November 1945.

Photo from an article in the Swedish magazine "Form" from 1947 concerning the home of a Danish engineer.

Photo of Philip Arctanders bed at NY FORM A/S in Copenhagen. From the Danish magazine "Nyt tidskrift for Kunstindustri", 1944.

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Following an in-depth investigation in a number of literary sources and conversations with descendants and friends of Philip Arctander, we can now state that the “Clam chair” was designed by Philip Arctander in 1944 and presented the following year at the newly-opened furniture store NY FORM A/S in Copenhagen. This has just been confirmed by Phillip Arctander’s old friend and colleague, the Danish architect Poul Erik Skriver, who for many years was the editor of the journal “The architect”. Together, the two friends were members of the Danish resistance movement during the Second World War. We would like to thank Philip Arctander’s granddaughter, Anne Sofie Arctander Paustian, who has facilitated contact with Poul Erik Skriver.

Philip Arctander

Danish architect Philip Arctander graduated from Kunstakademiets arkitektskole (the school of architecture) in Copenhagen and worked as an independent architect from 1939–47. It was during this early period that he designed the handful of furniture known today to have come from his hand. He then became head of research and subsequently director of the Danish Building Research Institute (SBI), where, among other things, he was an adviser to the United Nations on construction and housing issues.

In an article in “Nyt tidskrift for Kunstindustri” (new periodical on decorative art) in 1944, it was reported that, in connection with its opening, NY FORM A/S had asked six designers to come up with ideas for a furniture competition, one of them Philip Arctander. A later issue of the magazine tells us that all the furniture from the competition was displayed in the store.

This is also evident from the Danish design magazine “LP-nyt” – in which a rare version of the “Clam chair” without armrests appears. The same version is also seen in the Swedish magazine “Form” in 1947, in an article about the home of a Danish engineer. The more common version with armrests and a similar sofa appeared in the Danish magazine “Bygge&Bo” (build and live) from 1945, in an ad for Nordisk Staal & Møbel Central (Nordic Steel & Furniture Central). All of these sources confirm that the “Clam chair” is Danish and designed by Philip Arctander.

A misunderstanding occurs

Before achieving its star status a few years ago, the “Clam chair” would pop up every so often at minor Danish auctions. It was listed as being of unknown origin and sold for the modest price of around DKK 1,500.

However, in 2008, the price of the chair began to rise. Due to its similarity to the “Little Petra" chair, it was now listed as designed by the Danish architect Viggo Boesen, contributing to its soaring price. With our in-depth knowledge of Boesen’s design, we stuck with the chair’s “unknown origin” here at Bruun Rasmussen – right up until the Norwegian National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design confirmed on its website that the chair was designed by Norwegian Martin Olsen and manufactured by the furniture company VIK & BLINDHEIM in the 1950s.

There was international consensus that this must be the truth about the chair. Partly because the name Martin Olsen was unknown, and partly because nobody else had a better suggestion. There was also a tendency for all furniture with this characteristic soft shape and club-shaped legs to be attributed to this Martin Olsen. At Bruun Rasmussen, we bowed to the findings of the Norwegian National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design and began to describe the chair as having been designed by the Norwegian designer.

In search of the truth about the chair’s origin

In connection with our international auction in June in Copenhagen, a customer raised new doubts about the chair’s origin. As a result, we carried out an in-depth investigation into who designed the chair. The conclusion is clear – the story of Martin Olsen is not true, fuelled by the massive international interest in the chair. There never was a Norwegian designer named Martin Olsen, and the name actually refers to a furniture store in a suburb of Oslo, which was selling the “Clam chair”.

Amended description

Based on our in-depth investigation and conclusion, the chair will be described at future auctions as follows: “Phillip Arctander: Clam chair, designed 1944. Made in the late 1940s for Nordisk Staal & Møbel Central.”


See a record of the sources used


For further information, please contact:

Peter Kjelgaard: +45 8818 1191 ·