The Collector’s Minute: Wegner’s Wishbone Chair
Hans Jørgensen Wegner’s CH-24, better known as the Wishbone Chair, was one of 100 the designer put into production.
The 1960 Presidential Debate played a role in this country’s history, but it also helped establish a Danish modern icon: the “Wishbone Chair,” also known as the “Y” or “CH-24.”
It was designed by Hans Jørgensen Wegner, (April 2, 1914-Jan. 26, 2007), who began his career as a cabinetmaker in 1931 and trained at the Copenhagen School of Arts & Crafts. After obtaining his architectural degree in 1938, he began work as a designer for the architectural firm of Arne Jacobsen and Erik Møller.
Wegner opened his own office in 1943, and in 1944 he began work on a series of chair designs inspired by Chinese chairs depicted in old portraits of Danish merchants.
The model CH-24 was perfected in 1949 and put into production by the firm of Carl Hansen & Son in 1950.
Wegner went on to receive several major design prizes, including the Grand Prix of the Milan Triennale and the Lunning prize in 1951, the Prince Eugen medal in Sweden and the Danish Eckersberg medal. He was made honorary royal designer for industry by the Royal Society of Arts in London in 1959.
Another Wegner design, the PP503, became part of history when CBS purchased 12 of the chairs and used them for the 1960 Presidential Debate.
His designs got their biggest exposure in the 1960 Presidential Debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. The event was televised, and the chairs used on the set were another Wegner icon, the model “PP503,” often simply referred to as “the Chair.”
CBS, the TV network that broadcast the debates, bought 12 PP503 chairs for the first live broadcast of an election debate. It was actually Kennedy who was responsible for picking this chair, as Kennedy suffered back pain from injuries he’d sustained in the Second World War and wanted a comfortable chair for his aching back.
More than 70 million people watched the debate, and the modern design of the chairs was discussed in newspaper reports in days after.
In all, Wegner designed more than 500 different chairs, more than 100 of which were put into production. Today his furniture can be seen in many international collections, notably the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.
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