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Episode 3

At an auction in Denmark, the agent forgot the instruction the buyer to “compete up to 10 times the expected bid price” and it heated up.

Finn Juhl
Chieftain Chair, 1949

A Finn Juhl masterpiece, this historic chair was designed for use by the fireplace in your living room. In the spring of 1949, he started drawing around 10 in the morning and by 2 or 3 in the middle of the night, the form and details were completed as he had envisioned. According to Mr. Oda, “There is no other chair that is as majestic, dignified, intelligent, and clas

Hired a Japanese expatriate in Denmark
to collect information and chairs.

For about five years from 1984, I paid a Japanese man living in Denmark to gather various information about chairs. He was a guide for Japanese tourists and had some knowledge of furniture. His job was to cut out interior and furniture news from local newspapers such as the POLITIKEN newspaper, translate them, and send them to the laboratory chairs. When I had something that I wanted to ask a designer, he visited and interviewed them for me. He also accompanied Wegner, Finn Juhl, Grete Jalk, and Bernt Petersen as an interpreter.

And the most important job was to participate in the auction. When I receive information about the auction, I asked him to go to the venue on the first day of the preview, took pictures of the exhibited works, and have the prints sent by air express delivery. I selected a work, looked at the estimate (estimated bid price), write “how much”, and send it back by air express delivery. We didn’t have the internet like we do now, so everything took time and effort. And on the day of the auction, he participates in his place.

A Chieftain Chair was put up
for one auction!!

About three or four years after I joined Takashimaya, I was shocked to see the “Chieftain Chair” in a magazine. “What a fascinating chair.” I thought I would definitely get one someday. 78 of these chairs were manufactured in the Niels Vodder, 10 in the Ivan Schlechter (engraved), reproduced from the 1980s in the studio of Søren Horn’s apprentice Niels Roth Andersen, now manufactured and sold by One Collection, which is run by Hansen & Sorensen.

The first Niels Vodder workshop is housed in Danish embassies and museums around the world and is rarely seen on the market but one day in 1986, I found out that it would go up for auction in Denmark. After waiting for this opportunity for years, I told him to “compete up to 10 times the expected winning bid.” There were many competitors at the venue, and the prices went up steadily. Competitors were dropping out. The last one was a one-on-one fight with the remaining opponent and him. Perhaps he was overwhelmed by the atmosphere, he got so excited that he forgot the instructions and repeated bids until he finally won the bid. The winning bid was far beyond my budget.

In “expensive purchase”, it was worth
not to regret it.

When I heard about the situation, I was in a shock, thinking that it was a very expensive purchase but at the same time, I reconsidered, “I won the bid, so let’s be happy” and I immediately made a loan at Mitsui Bank and sent money. There is a sequel to this story. In 1987, the year after the auction, I met Mr. Finn Juhl, and he said, “The Chieftain Chair you’ve been looking for for a long time, it came up at auction last year and fetched a great price.” He didn’t seem to know that I had won the auction. “I received an inquiry from the Vitra Design Museum, and since they competed at the auction but didn’t win, they asked me if I could sell it.” Surprisingly, the opponent of the one-on-one combat at that time was Vitra. “After all, Vitra found a teak wood one in New York and bought it for about the same price as the winning bid.”

There was one more thing that I learned later. Of the 78 chairs made by the Niels Vodder, only 5 were made of Brazilian rosewood, the rest being teak. The five chairs have become increasingly rare and acquaintances say that when they were put up for auction at Phillips in London 13 or 14 years ago, they were priced at 80 million yen. The one I won the bid for was exactly that rosewood specification. Come to think of it, at the auction in Paris, I heard that the prototype of the “Grasshopper Chair” that Mr. Finn Juhl once bought (only two of them were prototyped) was put up for auction through a person and was sold for about 400 million yen and the world is like that. After all, my collection was made possible because it was that time when no one paid attention to it. Even so, the loan from this successful bid was a large amount, and I had to work hard every day.

Countless things were rescued
from the closed workshop.

I asked him one more thing as an expatriate. At that time, I asked him to go to the furniture workshops that were closing down one after another and asked to gather information to see if there were any remaining products or parts that could serve as important materials. When Christensen & Larsen closed their workshop, he took pictures of the interior and sent them to us. I repeat, it’s not a cell phone photo. Printed film photos were put in an envelope and delivered by airmail (laugh). In the photo, I saw a part that looked like a chair frame hanging in one corner of the room. I searched the literature and found that it was a prototype of the Easy Chair released in 1949 by Ib Kofod-Larsen. I told him to assemble it and purchased the finished product. I still use it at home now but it is the only chair in existence in the world.

A.J. Iversen is one of the most prestigious studios that uses Brazilian rosewood as its main material. He manufactured armchairs and high-end furniture for 800,000 yen and sold them to European aristocrats. When I heard that the company had decided to go out of business and had a goodbye sale, I immediately told him to hold down for each type. I received a report from him that he had taken 26 of them, and I took out a loan at Mitsui Bank. There were many materials that have been rescued in this way.

A dying Chieftain
which recently arrived.

It was this summer. A friend of mine, Mr. K, who owns a foreign book store, contacted me and said, “There is a person who wants Mr. Oda to buy his Chieftain Chair.” I immediately asked, “Is the seat covered with leather?” If it is covered with leather, it is a rare item with only 10 chairs in the world. Reply was, “It is covered with leather.” It is the phantom Chieftain Chair made of wood by PP Møbler, Ejnar Pedersen and upholstered in leather by upholsterer Ivan Schlechter. “But…just…” Mr. K hesitated. I heard that the owner, a Dutch sculptor, sold it to a lumber merchant for money, and that it was in extremely poor condition. I hesitated for a moment, but it was clear that it is worth keeping as a document. I decided to purchase it because I thought it would be possible to restore it with Asahikawa Furniture’s skills. The chair that was sent to me was torn and the tip of the characteristic hind leg was missing, and it was in a more tragic state than I had imagined. Currently, they are doing restoration work at a manufacturer in Asahikawa.

November 8th, 2022 Centpure (Higashikawa)
Interviewer: Kano Nishikawa

The photo on the left is from a visit to Mr. Finn Juhl in 1984.The photo on the right is taken by a visitor at my house. I’m surprised by the composition that looks too much like it even though he didn’t imitate it.

After the interview

This interview was conducted at Mr. Oda’s desk because the lounge room was full of students. He maintained a style of keeping a distance from IT, to the extent that he has recently been forced to “hold” his smartphone (according to himself), so he does not have a computer on his desk. Documents are handwritten, manuscripts are handwritten. Carefully written with a thin mechanical pencil. I also handwrite the interview with a fixed notebook and a pen, and I don’t record it on my iPhone. In this way, an analog interview scene that has not been seen much in recent years. (laugh)

Copywriter Kano Nishikawa
After working at a design office in Tokyo and Sapporo, I started working as a freelancer in Asahikawa in 2001. Until now, I have been involved in the production of advertisements for local companies and organizations, including Asahikawa Furniture. I have known Mr. Oda for about 30 years through my work.

NEXT

Episode 4: 200,000 yen just for the pot. One by one, it took 20 years collecting almost all items.

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