Artek and the Aaltos: Creating a Modern World
On View April 22-September 25, 2016
"Artek and the Aaltos: Creating a Modern World" is the first exhibition in the United States to examine the pioneering Finnish design company Artek (founded 1935) and their principal architects, Alvar Aalto (1898–1976) and Aino Marsio-Aalto (1894–1949), together. On view at Bard Graduate Center Gallery in New York City from April 22 through September 25, 2016, the exhibition features approximately 200 works—many never before exhibited—including architectural drawings, sketches for interiors and furniture, paintings, photography, furniture, glassware, lighting, and textiles.
The exhibition is curated by Bard Graduate Center Gallery Director Nina Stritzler-Levine, a recognized scholar of modern and contemporary design, and Juhani Pallasmaa, a practicing architect and leading authority on modern and contemporary architecture. Primary lenders include the Artek and Alvar Aalto archives and the Aalto Museum in Jyväskylä, Finland, with the Villa Mairea Foundation in Noormarkku, Finland, the Atheneum in Helsinki, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Works from private collections in Finland and the United States are also on view.
"Artek and the Aaltos: Creating a Modern World" features a large body of material that has not been previously studied or exhibited. Describing the Artek archive as “perhaps the single most comprehensive of its kind,” Nina Stritzler-Levine has drawn upon never before exhibited drawings and sketches as well as a remarkable trove of documents that illuminate the history of one of the twentieth-century’s greatest design companies. Among these are Aino Marsio-Aalto’s travel diary. “This project,” said Ms. Stritzler-Levine, “provides a rare opportunity to reveal the contribution of a pioneering woman architect and a pioneering architect couple. Remarkably, Aino Marsio-Aalto and Alvar Aalto’s practices closely resemble the working life of architect couples today.”
"Artek and the Aaltos: Creating a Modern World" is structured around themes focusing on the working practices of the architects and the Artek company’s founding mission. Founded by the Aaltos with arts patron Maire Gullichsen and art historian Nils-Gustav Hall in 1935, Artek had a multifaceted mission that was realized through a highly international retail business prefiguring what we know today as a global market. It also included a successful art gallery that was among the first in the Nordic world to show modern art, and an interior division whose numerous commissions were either for Finnish clients or collaborations with the Aalto’s architectural office. Today, in a design world with expectations of constant novelty and new products produced on an annual basis, the issues that Artek— with its iconic product line based on standardization— confronts are complex. The company’s longevity is a credit to the founders and those who have contributed to its legacy.