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Sculptural coffee table by Poul Kjærholm

September 18, 2017

This unique, prototype coffee table belongs to the very earliest phase of Kjærholm’s work. Designed in 1952 it displays an idiom that is much more experimenting and sculptural than the stringent minimalism for which he is renowned. After graduating from the School of Arts and Crafts in 1951 Kjærholm was hired by Fritz Hansen to experiment with materials and new types of structures and the table was one of the extraordinary accomplishments that came out of this research. It was clearly inspired by Isamu Noguchi’s coffee table designed in 1944, but while Noguchi’s table was a clear nod to the formal language of late surrealism; a sculpture that also served as a table, Kjærholm’s design developed from his experiments with the structural capacities of laminated wood.  By combining the inherent stability of a triangular base with the strength of laminated wood curves, Kjærholm created a masterly, sculptural frame that despite its apparent free-form foretold some of his later works in steel. The three-legged structure reappears in his PK 9 dining chair where the base is made of three curved pieces of steel, just as a triangular construction, though in a much more stringent variant, forms the base of the PK 56 dining table.

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The coffee table was developed to accompany a black lounge chair, PK 0, made from two overlapping pieces of laminated wood. The table was never put into production but it is a clear testament to Kjærholm’s unique artistic journey and the innovative approach towards materials that characterizes his work throughout his career.

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The table was included in the Fritz Hansen exhibition at the Museum of Applied Arts in Zürich in 1952 and displayed at the spring exhibition of the Danish Association of Arts and Crafts in 1953. In 2006 it was part of the great Kjærholm exhibition at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk and in 2007 it was exhibited at the Vendsyssel Museum of Art.