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Salto and PH - Pioneers of Simplicity

Press release   •   Mar 05, 2018 07:10 UTC

Poul Henningsen's pendant and Axel Salto's stoneware

The year's first international auction at Bruun Rasmussen in Copenhagen continues this week with modern art and design. Included in the auction is an early painted lamp by the Danish architect and author Poul Henningsen. The lamp’s decoration was inspired by the collaboration Henningsen had with the ceramic artist Axel Salto during the early 1920s, where the two decorated interiors together. This collaboration was before they achieved their respective international breakthroughs at the World’s Fair in Paris in 1925.

Poul Henningsen’s (PH) renowned functional lamp design has spread its light across a myriad of Danish living rooms, while Axel Salto's expressive stoneware has also found its way into Danish decor. Both designers are giants within their fields and strong exponents of Modernism in Denmark.

Traces of Salto in PH

PH and Salto both experienced a professional breakthrough at the World's Fair in Paris in 1925, where Salto's ceramics were received with great enthusiasm, and PH was awarded a gold medal for his lamp design. The two designers strived for the simplicity of the Modernistic idiom. For Salto, nature was an eternal source of inspiration and the way to an ornamental simplification, while PH focused on a functionalist design, where excessiveness should be removed from the final expression of the design.

Before their breakthrough in Paris, Salto and PH had worked together on the "Klingen" magazine, where PH wrote articles, and Salto functioned as an editor. Already around 1920, the two collaborated on an interior with PH lighting and wall decorations by Salto. They also created an exhibition pavilion at the Danish Artists' Autumn Exhibition in 1921, and at the World's Fair in 1925, Salto painted PH's ”Paris Lamp”.

At the first international auction of the year in Copenhagen, we present a pendant by PH, which can be seen as inspired by Salto's use of the patterns in nature. The colours on the surface of the glass fall like frozen waves of light – creating a beautiful orchestrated pattern that plays on our understanding of the basic elements of light. With this rare pendant, we see an interesting opposition between PH's desire for a pure functionality and the architect's bending of his own rules. The auction also offers one of PH's rarely seen works – a green floor lamp, which is presumed to have been made for the Tivoli Electricity Exhibition in September 1930.

Inspiration Found in the Patterns of Nature

Salto's goal was to have his work continue to grow in people's living rooms. Meaning that the movement and the process should remain in the work, where the surface appears in perpetual growth. This mindset can be seen in most of his work, where the three styles ("fluted", "budding" and "sprouting") are the most well-known. For Salto, it was not about imitating nature, but recreating its spirit.

The distinctive idiom reached new levels for Salto during his collaboration with the Royal Porcelain Factory in Copenhagen from the mid-1930s to the late 1950s. Here his stoneware was gradually characterized by even greater vitality, culminating in the "sprouting" style with the more 'stubborn' forms. A style that was directly inspired by nature's growth.

At this auction, Salto offers a grey stoneware vase. The vase belongs to the style of his early period with branches, fruits and leaves, which in combination with the crackled glaze gives the most beautiful organic expression. We meet his "budded" style in another sublime stoneware vase, decorated with the eye-catching acid-green Solfatara glaze and designed in 1944.

A Permanent Space in Danish Homes and Danish Minds

Seen next to each other, PH and Salto's works show the breadth of Modernist design in general and Nordic Modernism in particular, where the two gentlemen in each their material showed the way for a humanistic approach to the new currents that characterized contemporary society. The two designers have both become beacons of inspiration for later designers who have hoped to produce the same level of stylistic awareness and enthusiasm for design among the Danes.

International design auction

Auction: 7-8 March at Bredgade 33 in Copenhagen

View all the lots with Axel Salto and Poul Henningsen

View all the lots from the design auction

Read more about the auction

Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers is one of Scandinavia’s leading international auction houses, and one of Denmark’s oldest. It all started on 6 October 1948, when Arne Bruun Rasmussen conducted the first traditional auction in the saleroom at Bredgade 33 in Copenhagen. Today, Jesper Bruun Rasmussen stands at the helm of the family-run business together with the third generation of the family, his son Frederik and daughter Alexa, and the company’s CEO Jakob Dupont.

In 2004, the first online auction was launched, and today the auction house has expanded to include departments in Copenhagen and Aarhus and representations in Sweden, Germany, France, Belgium, Luxemburg, Spain, Italy, Thailand and the US. About 100,000 lots are put up for auction each year at the traditional auctions and daily online auctions. Here you can bid on everything from art, antiques, modern design and jewellery to books, coins, stamps, wine and weaponry.