Welcome to week 3 of The Untitled Drawing Club. As always, a link to the club will be shared at the end of this post. This week, we’re travelling all the way to Copenhagen to visit the Designmuseum. I was fortunate enough to visit this museum back in 2016. If you want to read about my experience, you can follow the link here. I still remember all the wonderful objects on display including a whole raft of mid-century Danish design furniture which filled me with so much joy. As I’ve already reviewed the Museum, I’m going to skip that for this post. Instead, I want to share a bit about its history (I briefly mentioned this in my 2016 post) then focus on the virtual tour. Finally, I’ll share the artwork I created inspired by my visit.
History of the Building
Currently the Museum is closed to the public and due to open in 2022. They have taken the opportunity during COVID to renovate, restore and repair – the perfect time to complete such work. Both the Museum and the building it is housed in have such fascinating histories and I want to share these with you. If/when you visit, you can have this history and these stories at the forefront of your mind!
To start, the Museum was founded back in 1890 by the Confederation of Danish Industries and the Ny Carlsberg Museumslegat in Copenhagen. It opened to the public in 1895. From the beginning, the goal of the Museum has been to ‘communicate the idea of quality within design’ (quoting their mission statement). What does this mean? Well, by displaying some of the finest made Danish products, they are hoping to raise consumer awareness of quality over quantity.
A few decades later, in 1926, the Museum moved into the building where it’s located today (photographed below). This is a classic Rococo-style building that was constructed during the reign of King Fredrik V between 1752 – 1757. After some quick renovations by Ivar Ventsen and Kaare Klint, it became the perfect place to house a design museum. Klint, aka the grand old man of Danish furniture design, even lived in the Museum while working as a lecturer at the School of Furniture Design and Interior Decoration and the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Personally, living in a Museum is the dream.
I am going to jump back in time to share the most, in my opinion, exciting thing about this building. So it was built in the 1750s and became a museum in the 1920s, but what function did it serve between these years? I want you to have a look at the entrance to the Museum and consider what it looks like.
If you guessed hospital, then you are correct. This building was the first public hospital in Denmark where patients could receive free healthcare. It was officially opened on 31 March 1757, King Frederik’s birthday, and called the Royal Frederik’s Hospital. Funds were raised from the earnings of the Norwegian Postal Service. If you’re thinking, wow that’s random, King Frederik not only ruled Denmark, but also Norway. When you walk through the building there are these long galleries that were originally filled with beds for patients. It was all very systematic and functional in design with each bed positioned near a large window to allow for natural light. Located right in the middle of the building was the Grønnegården, an outdoors space for patients to visit during their stay. Part of the virtual tour actually places you in this garden so it was really interesting to learn about its historical significance. The Assembly Hall, or main entrance to the building, was one of the hospital’s main operating rooms. Those large windows you can see in the photograph above would have allowed the space to be filled with light making it perfect for some 19th century surgery. The hospital closed in 1910 when the new Rigshospitalet opened. For 16 years the building sat empty until the Designmuseum moved in.
Unlike in previous weeks, this virtual tour isn’t really a tour, but images from Google maps that you can rotate around. You can’t move through the space so you are locked in to one area. The three images we have available consist of two exhibition spaces and the outdoor courtyard and garden I wrote about earlier. My favourite is the room filled with Danish-designed chairs. How they are displayed is so aesthetically pleasing and transforms this functional piece of furniture into a work of art. I also enjoyed spending some time in the garden and could definitely see how it was a relaxing place for those who were recovering in hospital.
The final image places you in an exhibition showcasing the work of Arne Jacobsen. If you are up-to-speed with your Danish designers then this name will probably resonate with you. Every image I found of Jacobsen is of him smoking a pipe. Although Jacobsen achieved so much in the world of Danish design, he is arguably most famous for the three chairs photographed below. They are, from left to right, the drop chair, the egg and the swan. We can also thank Jacobsen for chairs that stack neatly on top of each other. Looking around the room you can also see some cutlery he designed as well as thematic panels and a few photographs.
I can’t really review the virtual tour in too much depth due to its nature. It was enough, however, to inspire me to create some art.
Similar to last week, I wanted to take something I saw and give it life. I love Danish design and I love a good chair, so I decided to draw one of the chairs and make it feel homely. Underneath, I cross stitched a coffee mug resting on a pile of books. On top, also cross stitched, is a cushion inviting you to sit down and relax.
It’ll be great to see the other works inspired by this virtual visit on Sunday. If you want to join the club or find further information then click here. Until next week, happy drawing!