Jens Risom, unsung luminary of Scandinavian design, profiled in new book

Phaidon will release ‘Jens Risom: A Seat at the Table,’ the first book to spotlight the Scandinavian design pioneer, on February 2.

Phaidon will release ‘Jens Risom: A Seat at the Table,’ a book that spotlights the Scandinavian designer, on February 2.

NEW YORK – Phaidon is pleased to present Jens Risom: A Seat at the Table, the first book to celebrate the seminal figure’s legacy in design history. One of the first designers to introduce Scandinavian design to the United States, Risom is an unsung hero of the highly popular Mid-century Modern movement. The 264-page Risom book will be released as a hardback on February 2, priced at $125.

Created in collaboration with Jens Risom’s son, Sven Risom, and sponsored by FORM portfolios with the full cooperation of the Risom family, the book offers unique access to never-before-published sketches, photographs, and fascinating ephemera selected exclusively from the designer’s archives and now published for the first time.

Jens Risom: A Seat at the Table chronicles Risom’s life and work, from his education in Copenhagen and early freelance career in New York, through the Knoll years, and up to his enduring legacy in the 21st century. Following unprecedented access to the designer’s archive, the book features a treasure trove of imagery including hand- drawn sketches, rare catalog pages and archival photographs, as well as gems such as pages from the diary of Iben, Risom’s first wife, chronicling their cross-country road-trip with Hans Knoll.

Contemporary photography highlights key pieces that are still in production today with leading manufacturers – Knoll, Design Within Reach, De Padova, Camira, and Ralph Pucci – as well as an extensive inventory that meticulously logs every single Risom piece ever produced.

Phaidon’s ‘Jens Risom: A Seat at the Table’ will be the first authoritative biography of the influential Mid-century Modern designer.

Phaidon’s ‘Jens Risom: A Seat at the Table’ will be the first authoritative biography of the influential but underappreciated Mid-century Modern designer.

At 23 years of age, Jens Risom emigrated to the US where he met a young Hans Knoll. Their successful collaboration not only launched his own career as one of the pioneers of Modern design in the US, but also helped to establish another one of America’s most beloved furniture brands: the Hans Knoll Furniture Company. Risom’s designs formed the majority of Knoll’s first catalog in the summer of 1942 – 16 of the 23 items.

Most notable were his webbed chairs, made of rejected parachute material due to wartime restrictions. These innovative chairs were instrumental in establishing the company’s reputation. They are still produced by Knoll today and are among the most recognizable and collectible pieces from the era.

In 1946 he formed his own company, Jens Risom Design, which at its peak was one of the three largest furniture manufacturers in the United States. A perfectionist, Risom oversaw every aspect of the design, even producing his own textiles and visiting his factories weekly to ensure everything was just so.

In 1970, Jens Risom started Design Control – a freelance practice, working out of his home studio to conceive new furniture and textiles. The success of his new furnishings for some of the leading design firms and galleries around the world, and the reissue of his most memorable pieces, would keep him productive and promi- nent in the design world well into his nineties. He collaborated with brands such as Ralph Pucci and Design Within Reach and lived to see his own centennial retrospective exhibition in 2016.

His pieces are featured in the collections of MoMA, the Cooper Hewitt and Vitra Design Museum. Today, more than 50 of Risom’s designs remain in production, and his highly collectible original work sells for large sums at auction.

Jens Risom: A Seat at the Table is the first authoritative biography of Risom and the only book to offer an exclusive insight into one of the most important figures in Mid-century Modern design. Showcasing his work like never before, this book proves, as the immortal slogan in his iconic ad campaign shot by Richard Avedon tells us, “The answer is Risom.”

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