Modernity by CFHILL
In the Hand of a Genius
February 15
— March 9, 2019


In the Hands of a Genius

What was it about Scandinavia, exactly, that produced a design movement so energetic that its magic has yet to fade in the slightest? Artistic ambition, innovation, material, a plurality of forms, and playfulness. But most of all: attention to the whole, always placing humanity and the sensual centre stage. Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark were all impacted by the war in different ways, but perhaps they all share the same slow pace and limited enthusiasm for industrialisation and modernity. The tradition of craftsmanship was deeply rooted, and a foundation of society. Scandinavian Modern, or Swedish Modern – whichever of its many names you prefer – always returns to this: the genius of the hand, its skill, and its ancient processes. Swedish writer Carl Jonas Love Almqvist may have put it most aptly: Only Sweden has Swedish gooseberries. 

In this exhibition, CFHILL has made a selection of unique objects from Modernity’s treasure trove. Since setting off on this journey, almost exactly three years ago, we have established ourselves as a new venue for art. Producing an exhibition of functional objects doesn’t seem strange to us at all. The key concept here is the genius of the hand. 

Peder Moos - The Eccentric

if asked to distinguish Danish design from Swedish, one might suggest that it is often a little more individualistic, a little more eccentric. This is definitely true of Peder Moos (1906–1991), whose credo can be summed up with a single word: function. His most remarkable piece of furniture must be his bed, which could be slid out through the window whenever he felt like sleeping under the stars. The defining element of Moos’s furniture, which has made his works some of the most talked about, is the sheer skill of his craftsmanship. All the solutions he used result from the genius and experience of the hand. His knowledge of the material is striking, and intensely impressive. Primary woods were chosen for hardness, based on the function of the form, while secondary woods added strength and colour. His forms are aerodynamic, with a touch of Art Nouveau, but most of all, they are entirely unique, and natural. You will never find a nail or screw in his furniture. He treated the wood as though it was his own child. In 2015, his oak table from 1952, which was commissioned for Villa Aubertin, became the most expensive Scandinavian piece of furniture ever sold at auction (600,000 GBP, or just over 7 million SEK). Peder Moos' furniture has been exhibited internationally at Museums in Stockholm and the Hague, as well as at New York's MoMA.

Paavo Tynell – The Scandinavian Master of Light

He’s been called “the man who illuminated Finland.” Paavo Tynell (1890–1973) belonged to the group centred on the great guru Alvar Aalto, but soon made his own name, and became an essential contributor on Aalto’s larger projects, such as the famous sanatorium in Paimio. Unlike his colleague Arne Vodder, for example, Tynell converted industrial machinery into natural shapes and shadows.

The polished, perforated brass provides an efficient light, well suited for the modern era, but it also possesses suggestive, soft, poetic, and forest-like qualities. It’s really no surprise that he was hired to design the lighting for the General Secretary’s office in the UN building in 1953. 

Barbro Nilsson – The Queen of Textiles and Weaving

When founder Märta Måås Fjetterström passed on in 1941, Barbro Nilsson (1899–1983) was chosen to be the artistic leader of the MMF  weaving studio. On her appointment in 1942, she was expected to guarantee innovation, in technical and spiritual terms as well as in terms of the variety of patterns. She had already mastered all the techniques of weaving and transferred works by X:et and Endre Nemes to tapestries in her youth. Her round Röda Rabatten(“Red Flowerbed”), which was made using the “flossa” fringing technique, was originally ordered by the biggest name in Swedish fashion at the time: Sven Salén. The carpet was designed to be round so that models could look sharp when they walked on it. It represents an important piece of Swedish textile history. Since 1944, when the carpet was first designed, four of them have been made, and this is one of them. If Märta Måås Fjetterström was the vital connector between Swedish arts and crafts, traditional lifestyles, and modern interior decoration, Barbro Nilsson would go on to be the great genius of colour and patterns, who ensured that the MMF company will remain relevant even in the future. 

Finn Juhl – The Character

As a child, Finn Juhl (1912–1989) took an avid interest in art history, and was allowed to borrow books from the library even though he was too young to get a library card. His stern father put an end to those ideas, however, and made sure the boy went on to become an architect. This may not have been Finn Juhl’s dream, but it did lead him to it. When the firm he worked for, Vilhem Lauritzen, won the prestigious contract to design a new building for the Danish Broadcasting Corporation DR, the legendaryRadiohuset, Finn Juhl was free to focus on the internal decoration. Finn Juhl designed furniture based on the human body and its characteristics. His distinctive models set him apart even within the highly individualistic Danish scene, and he thought more like a sculpture a furniture designer. Today, he is an international icon. 

The full list of designers included in In the Hands of a Genius:
Carl-Harry Stålhane, Paavo Tynell, Alvar Aalto, Arne Jacobsen, Arne Vodder, Bruno Mathsson, Carl Axel Acking, Ernst Kühn, Erik Chambert, Eszter Imre, Finn Juhl, Poul Dinesen, Gunnar Nylund, Gunnar Wennerberg, Poul Hundevad, Josef Frank, Kaare Klint, Sergio Bustamente, Peder Moos, Børge Mogensen, Mauri Almari, Eva Hild, Eliel Saarinen, Toini Muona, Sandra Davolio, Robert Deblander, Verner Panton, Marcel Breuer, Uno Åhrén/Björn Trädgårdh, Edvard and Tove Kindt-Larsen, Barbro Nilsson.