Jens Quistgaard Around The Table celebrates legacy of "world-famous unknown Dane"

Sculptors Stool in Jens Quistgaard Around The Table

An exhibition during 3 Days of Design showcased the vast archive of Jens Quistgaard, who is one of Denmark’s most successful designers, despite being relatively unknown.

Quistgaard, who passed away in 2008, was responsible for bringing Scandinavian design to homes across America.

As chief designer for US-based homeware manufacturer and retailer Dansk Designs for three decades, he designed more than 4,000 objects, many distributed to hundreds of stores nationwide.

Stokkestolen Easy Chair in Jens Quistgaard Around The Table
Jens Quistgaard Around The Table showcased furniture and tableware by the late Danish designer

Quistgaard’s name is nowhere near as well known as the products he designed, so his contribution to Danish design history is largely unrecognised.

With Jens Quistgaard Around The Table, Form Portfolios – a US-based company that specialises in the management of design heritage – hoped to promote a wider appreciation of this “world-famous unknown Dane”.

The exhibition was on show at Form Portfolios’ Copenhagen outpost for 3 Days of Design.

Jens Quistgaard Around The Table
A dining table showcased many of the products Quistgaard developed for Dansk Designs

“With his 30-year collaboration with Dansk, Quistgaard was the design genius behind the scenes of that seminal brand,” said Mark Masiello, CEO and founder of Form Portfolios.

“He was more committed to bringing Scandinavian modern design into American homes than building his own design legacy,” he told Dezeen.

Jens Quistgaard Around The Table
Quistgaard’s series of sculptural peppermills was displayed on the wall

Quistgaard was recruited in 1954 by Dansk Designs founders Martha and Ted Nierenberg, who were impressed by a cutlery set that the designer had previously developed.

Many of the designs that Quistgaard produced for the brand were tableware and kitchenware, which is why Form Portfolios made a dining table the focal point of its exhibition.

Peppermills in Jens Quistgaard Around The Table
The designer developed more than 4,000 objects in his 30 years at Dansk Designs

The table provided display space for dozens and dozens of Quistgaard-designed objects, including plates, cutlery, candleholders, glasses, cooking pots, jugs and more.

Behind the table, rows of shelves accommodated a series of sculptural peppermills.

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As the designs for which Quistgaard is most likely to be remembered, these turned-wood peppermills recall the shapes of familiar objects, from chess pieces to pieces of fruit.

“The peppermill designs clearly show the love of sculpture that flows through Quistgaard’s work,” said Masiello.

Chairs in Jens Quistgaard Around The Table
The exhibition was on show for 3 Days of Design

“His daughter, Henriette Quistgaard, said he hoped the peppermills on their own could be the beginnings of great dinner conversations,” he stated.

The exhibition also featured larger objects, including a handful of furniture designs. Masiello pointed to the Stokke Armchair (1965) and the Sculptors Chair (2004) as being particularly noteworthy.

Sculptors Stool in Jens Quistgaard Around The Table
The Sculptors Chair was among the furniture works on display

“I find his creative range so inspiring,” Masiello said. “Working with different materials and object types, he was always pushing his design practice to new frontiers.”

“He is more well known for the kitchen objects, but he was always exploring other designs too, including chairs, stools and tables,” he continued.

Tableware in Jens Quistgaard Around The Table
Many of the objects were sourced from Quistgaard’s former home

The show was curated in collaboration with Stig Guldberg, author of the monograph Jens Quistgaard: The Sculpting Designer, which was published by Phaidon in 2023.

Many of the exhibits were sourced from the home where the designer spent his final years, a farmhouse on the outskirts of Copenhagen where Henriette Quistgaard still lives today.

Drawings in Jens Quistgaard Around The Table
Original sketches featured alongside the objects

“My father was a visionary of design, bridging the old world of craftsmanship into the new world of manufacturing,” Henriette said.

“It is thrilling to see the full body of his life’s work being shown.”

Jens Quistgaard Around the Table was on show from 12 to 14 June as part of 3 Days of Design. See Dezeen Events Guide for more architecture and design events around the world.

The photography is by Sofie Hvitved.

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