It makes the perfect weather for a gallery visit. Last week, I went to the excellent LACMA museum exhibition Scandinavian Design and the United States. It was an inspiring journey for me, being a recent immigrant to the US with heritage from Denmark, I saw many items from my childhood, as well as some surprises that I never associated with the Nordics. Originally moving here, I didn’t expect to see much influence from the Nordic countries but walking around it was clear that the Scandinavians, although small in population, have had an incredible impact on the way we look at and know design within the US.
The cultural exchange between Scandinavia and the US really came to fruition after WWII with the establishment of the Fulbright scholarship-an initiative set up by the American government to sponsor educational exchange. Nordic and American designers would travel between the two continents for short periods of time, developing creative ideas, learning new philosophies and infusing their notions of modernism into each other’s work. Fittingly, I drew the personal parallel while at this exhibition as it comes at a time where I am launching my business within the US – infusing my Danish heritage and its design philosophy into California’s interiors.
My Danish family’s exchange with the US started with my great grandfather being one of the first to import the popular American brand Ford car into Denmark in the 1930s!
My grandfather (who I inherited my love of Architecture from) worked for FDB Møbler. This company was a leader in establishing a mass distribution of affordable Danish design FDB Møbler chairs throughout US Supermarkets. (FDB Møbler, established in 1942, aimed to bring affordable, high quality furniture to the Danish people – more on this at a later date!)
I love that they both saw the potential to fuse these two cultures together with the Ford and FDB brands common themes of accessible design for the people.
The exhibition expertly highlighted that Danish design (and Scandinavian) has always been for the people – functional, well made, classic and easy to understand. This can be seen so clearly in one of the most famous Danish brands – Lego! This revolutionary toy designed by Ole Kirk Christensen was brought to the US in 1961 and emphasised creativity and imagination in children (and of course adults). It needed no language or complicated instructions, it was just a simple effective way for children to build and understand what it meant to be creative. Lego sets have long been a feature in Danish, British and American homes!
A well known cultural exchange between the US and Scandinavia was during the presidential debate in 1960 between John F Kennedy and Richard Nixon. The two presidential hopefuls were sitting in iconic Danish designs, The Round Chair by Hans J Wegner (known as the godfather of chairs). You may remember the iconic shot of JFK right before the first televised US presidential debate went live. For us Danes, it is a proud moment in US history.
Walking through the exhibition was nostalgic and created excitement for me-knowing that my mission to bring Danish design philosophy outside of its native place remains as relevant today as it did in the previous century. I feel there is so much to be gained from bringing more of my heritage into the homes and interiors of LA. Just as my relatives connected the two countries, I’m motivated to continue their legacy and infuse the Danish way of design into California living
The exhibition closes on 5th February so if you have not been and you want to learn and be visually stimulated by the carefully curated and very colourful installations, make sure you make time this week!