The Story of Scandinavian Design Isn’t What You Think It Is

At the Los Angeles County Museum of Artwork, a new exhibition showcasing Nordic layout from the earlier century contains dozens of objects you probably already know and adore: a Finn Juhl chair, sleek and modernist 1960s Marimekko textiles with vivid florals and Alvar Aalto’s glass Iittala vase, with its sinuous contours. There are also late 19th- and early 20th-century works that, predating midcentury modernism, are much more ornate and most likely less common: wooden chairs and iron punch bowls inscribed with lace patterns, vikings, and dragons, and hand-woven tapestries and elaborate jewellery. And ultimately, the exhibit features more than a handful of presumably American items you could possibly be amazed to find there at all, like Lego sets, Eames chairs, and Fiskars scissors.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s hottest exhibit attributes operates from 1890-1980 by Scandinavian designers and their American counterparts. The museum commissioned Barbara Bestor Architects for show’s vibrant design.

At its coronary heart, Scandinavian Style and design and the United States, 1890–1980, on perspective at LACMA by February 5 of 2023, is an exhibition targeted on the immigrant designers and craftspeople from Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Iceland who “performed an massive job in shaping American design and style,” suggests LACMA’s Bobbye Tigerman, who cocurated the show with Monica Obniski of the Milwaukee Artwork Museum.

The exhibition, built by Los Angeles architect Barbara Bestor, serves as a follow up to Tigerman’s book of the identical title, introduced in 2020, which is packed with illustrations of Scandinavian style influences on The united states. Charles and Ray Eames, for case in point, owe some credit to Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen, who, like a lot of Nordic immigrants, arrived in the American midwest early in the twentieth century. Saarinen designed both equally the campus and academia of Cranbrook Academy of Artwork outside Detroit, Michigan, inviting other Nordic immigrants, including ceramicist Maija Grotell and weaver Marianne Strengell, to be part of the faculty. The faculty finally turned the incubator of some of the most acclaimed American designers, together with the Eameses, Florence Knoll, and many other individuals.

Marimekko textiles are a couple of of the common favorites integrated in the exhibition.

A collection of midcentury-modern-day seating that consists of Eero Saarinen’s Tulip chair and an Eames Molded Plastic armchair highlights the dialogue that was happening involving American and Nordic designers.

The exhibition also highlights moments when the United States mutually affected Nordic designers. The formica-and-walnut midcentury desk that greets site visitors at the entrance of the museum is a 1952 structure by Greta Magnusson Grossman, a Swedish designer and architect who immigrated to California in 1940. “With this desk, she’s applying a standard cabinet-building wood with an American generation strategy,” Tigerman suggests. “To me, it is a genuinely wonderful marriage of her Scandinavian and American ordeals.”

Even more into the exhibition, there’s a classic set from Danish model Lego, which arrived in the United States just in time for the Xmas of 1961. “It’s a fun case in point of how a Scandinavian products captured the pleasure and the fascination of an American viewers,” Tigerman claims. By that level in the twentieth century, Individuals were substantial enthusiasts of “Scandinavian layout” as a advertising and marketing catchphrase, nonetheless incomplete our eyesight of Scandinavia could possibly have been.

For Bobbye Tigerman, one particular of the exhibition’s cocurators, the formica-and-walnut Greta Grossman desk on the right is “a actually good relationship of the designer’s Scandinavian and American activities.”

American pair Martha and Ted Nierenberg started the model Dansk in the garage of their Wonderful Neck, New York, dwelling in 1954. Claims Tigerman, they have been “investing on Scandinavian design’s associations with remaining large-high quality, modern-day, and economical.” They employed Danish designer Jens H. Quistgaard to build these Købenstyle casserole dishes and pitcher in 1955.

This Viking boat centerpiece was made in 1905 by Rhode Island–based Gorham Manufacturing Business all through a period identified as Viking revival. The motion acquired recognition in the 19th century as WASPs pitted Leif Erikson, a Norse explorer, from the Roman Catholics’ Christopher Columbus for the title of discoverer of The united states.  

Hand-painted Dala horses like these, at first from the rural Dalarna area of Sweden, are well-liked in the midwest as keepsakes of Scandinavian heritage.

“Even though we use the phrase ‘Scandinavian design’ to capitalize on the term’s continuing forex, we accept its shortcomings and constraints,” the exhibition catalog reads, pointing out the ongoing generalizations manufactured about this location of the planet. A good deal of them can be attributed to advertising and marketing approaches after World War II, Tigerman clarifies: As the midcentury American economic climate boomed and the Nordic international locations needed to ally them selves with the U.S. aspect of the Cold War, advertisers on the two finishes of the Atlantic offered “Scandinavian” as a one, homogenous design, characterised by basic, natural, well-produced kinds. “Exhibitions of Scandinavian layout that came to The us experimented with to affiliate these objects not just with modernism and organic resources, but with independence and democracy,” Tigerman suggests. 

In reality, Scandinavia includes 3 nations around the world with pretty unique cultures and economies with their possess highs and lows. (And Finland is actually not a Scandinavian country, but a Nordic a person.) But for the American palate, “Scandinavian style and design” was an suitable fantasy. Unique but not much too unique, it observed enormous popularity in the web pages of Home Stunning and American homes, so significantly so that in the mid ’50s, a New York few established a manufacturer of colorful kitchenware and known as it Dansk—the Danish word for Danish.

The late Howard Smith was a Black artist from Philadelphia who moved to Finland in 1962 and made the decision to remain. This is a 1978 instance from his prosperous run as a textile designer for the Finnish Vallila silk organization.

This is a 1951 sketch by Swedish textile artist Marianne Richter of one particular of her tapestries that at some point hung in the United Nations Economic and Social Council Chamber.

The show finishes in the 1980s, where by below a new globalized environment order, Italian and Japanese design rose to prominence though the fantasy of Scandinavian style began to fade away, while not entirely. These times, types from Nordic nations are commonplace, characterized by minimalism, extra refined colours, and the coziness of hygge. But like so numerous other immigrant teams in the heritage of the U.S., the contributions Nordic people today manufactured to the region by means of the early and mid 1900s keep on being indelible to American tradition now.

Kaj Franck, the Finnish designer who developed these goblets for Nuutajärvi Glassworks in 1968, is one of a lot of Nordic craftspeople who have been influenced by the United States. In 1956, he toured the United States on a Fulbright scholarship, starting up with RISD and ending at UCLA.

Leave a Reply