ASAHIKAWA, HOKKAIDO – Noritsugu Oda, who received the first Wegner Prize for his collection of 140 chairs by Danish designer Hans Wegner, says he regards it as his “mission” to collect and pass on such historically valuable artifacts.
“My sole purpose was simply to hand down remarkable goods to the next generation,” the 68-year-old said after winning the award in April, created by the Danish town of Tonder, Wegner’s birthplace, and a local museum to commemorate the centenary of his birth in 1914.
Oda, now professor emeritus at Tokai University, was commended for having organized exhibitions of his Wegner collections in Japan and abroad and also publishing books about the masterpieces.
“A chair is a symbol of power and sitting on great chairs has been a deep desire with me,” he said.
Oda spent on the collections all the money he made by designing advertisements and drawing illustrations.
“It would not have been a surprise if my wife had said to me at any time that she wanted to get divorced,” he said.
“I thank my family for letting me live a selfish life,” he told the award ceremony in Denmark.
Oda, whose parents were also fans of imported furniture, was 26 when he bought a chair for the first time in his life, with a loan. Since then, he has acquired over 1,350 more chairs.
A native of Ochi in Kochi Prefecture, Oda graduated from the Osaka University of Arts and entered Takashimaya Co., a department store chain operator. However, he left the company at 32 in 1979.
He then set up a private chair research institute and immersed himself in the study and analysis of Danish furniture. In northern Europe in the 1980s, traditional craftsmen of such furniture were growing scarce and many factories closed.
“I had no doubt it should be my mission to collect historically precious items while they were still available,” he said.
After assuming the post of art and technology professor at Hokkaido Tokai University’s Asahikawa campus, now part of Tokai University, Oda built a home to accommodate his collection in the woods of Higashikagura near the central Hokkaido city.
He designed the home using detailed calculations, including the angle of light from windows falling onto a sofa. However, as his underground warehouse cannot afford to keep all of his collection, he has now entrusted some of the furniture to outside storages.
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