18:00 PM

Northern Lights: Scandinavian Design

May 23–October 4, 2015

Collab Gallery, The Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building

This Philadelphia Museum of Art presents an exhibition dedicated to modern and contemporary design from Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. Northern Lights: Scandinavian Design spans the period from 1900 to the present with an emphasis on the mid-twentieth century, when Americans embraced the concept of Scandinavian Modern with growing enthusiasm. The exhibition highlights the qualities that make the domestic furnishings from these diverse and unique nations distinct. From Viking revival furniture inspired by the discovery of ancient burial grounds to boldly printed fabrics of Marimekko made famous by Jacqueline Kennedy—she wore its dresses during her husband’s presidential campaign—to children’s furniture made for IKEA, the exhibition features a full array of inventive works originally conceived for the general consumer.

Donna Corbin, the Louis C. Madeira IV Associate Curator of European Decorative Arts, stated: “The American fascination with Scandinavian design owes to its simple elegant forms, to a centuries-long tradition of handcraftsmanship and appreciation for the natural world. Its abiding human spirit emphasizes the importance of the home as a source of comfort and community. Based on a belief in the positive social impact of beautiful, well-conceived objects, in the last century Scandinavian design has come to epitomize ‘good design.’”

The exhibition includes furniture, ceramics, metalwork, textiles, and glass. It is drawn largely from the collection, including gifts from Collab, a group of enthusiasts that has generously supported Museum acquisitions and programming in the field of modern and contemporary design for more than four decades. Among the highlights are works by two of Scandinavia’s most important architect-designers, Alvar Aalto and Arne Jacobsen: the stacking stool featuring the L-shaped leg that Aalto considered his most important contribution to furniture design; and two chairs Jacobsen designed for his most famous projects, the S.A.S. Air Terminal and the Royal Hotel in Copenhagen.

Classic chairs by Hans Wegner, widely admired—then and now—for their seemingly effortless simplicity, beautiful proportions, and timeless design, are featured. Included will be his Round chair, versions of which Presidential candidates John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon sat in during their famous 1960 televised debate, and the Peacock chair that reworks the traditional Windsor design. Verner Panton rejected the traditional materials and methods of his native Demark, adopting instead new materials in pursuit of a bold and original style. His plastic stacking chair, an icon of 1960s design, was the first mass-produced chair made from a single piece of any material.

More recent works demonstrate the variety of approaches taken by a younger generation. Conceived in 2000, Komplot Design’s NON chair is made of rubber, while Peter Karpf’s ‘nxt’ chair is composed of bent laminated beech, a material much employed by Aalto in the 1930s. Minecraft, the widely-popular video game designed by Marcus “Notch” Persson in 2009, speaks especially to the moment.

On Sunday, June 28 and August 30, at noon, a program of open-ended Minecraft play and digital creativity is scheduled.

Exhibition hours
Tuesday–Sunday: 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.

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