University Museums

Title: PK-22 Chair
Name: Chair
Date: 1955-1969
Period: Mid Century Modern
Medium: Wicker and steel
Country/Culture: Danish
Dimensions: 29 × 26 × 16 in. (73.7 × 66 × 40.6 cm)
Classification: Furniture
Credit Line: Gift of Geitel Winakor. In the permanent collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Object Number: Um2007.73
More Information
Much of Poul Kjærholm's furniture was intended for his own home, located north of Copenhagen and designed by his wife, architect Hanne Kjærholm. His PK22 Easy Chair (1956) was inspired by the light, elegant klismos chair created by the ancient Greeks. With this piece, Kjærholm reduced the chair to three elements: legs, seat and connecting clamps. Such simplicity is true to the International Style, and the combination of a steel structure with natural materials was characteristic of his work. Through his disciplined approach, the chair's cantilevered seat is stabilized by a double cross beam that is precisely positioned so the body rests naturally without a hard front edge or top rail.

Poul Kjaerholm's furniture conveys the tension between modernity and age-old craft with breathtaking immediacy. The contradiction inherent in combining supple hand-rubbed leather with tough aircraft-industry screws is the subtext to the refined Wow! of the PK-22's curved leg, as deliberate as a brushstroke, and the visual panache of the PK-24 chaise's arched rattan cradled in square steel arms. But ultimately the connoisseur appeal of a Kjaerholm work resides in its structural purity, sheared clean of any concern so ephemeral as style.

The astonishingly sophisticated PK-22, created in 1956, was the Danish designer's breakthrough piece, making him instantly famous. It won the Grand Prix at the Milan Triennale in 1957 and has remained in production ever since. In December 2007, Christie's London sold a pair of PK-22 chairs with rattan seats made by the original manufacturer, E. Kold Christensen, for $15,206.

Kjaerholm treated machine-made steel with the same respect he accorded the finest hand-tooled material. He saw no need to reinvent traditional furniture shapes yet created pieces of striking originality. Looking at one of his chairs, "it is impossible to tell if it is 50 or 5 years old," says Michael Sheridan, an architect and the author of the recently published The Furniture of Poul Kjaerholm: Catalogue Raisonné (Gregory R. Miller & Company).

Rattan is a natural material, consisting of the inner tissue of the stem of the
tropical palm, Calamus Rotang. The colour of rattan may vary. This is a characteristic feature of natural materials and will not be accepted as
grounds of complaint. Rattan will dry if placed in locations with a low humidity (e.g. in rooms with central heating). When rattan dries, it turns hard, and the risk of breaking increases.
(Adapted from Design within Reach website and the Fritz Hansen website, 2009)