The Museum at Bard Graduate Center, my alma mater celebrates the spectacular lives and careers of husband-and-wife architects Alvar Aalto and Aino Marsio-Aalto (married 1924), who crafted one of the most enduring and productive partnerships in the history of modern design, with the famed design brand Artek. Entitled ‘Artek and the Aaltos: Creating a Modern World,’ this exhibition, which I have visited this morning with my class, tells the story of a partnership that manifested so many principles of the Modern Movement and those of Scandinavian design. While the literature on Aalto is extensive, the role of Aino in this partnership has been overlooked, as the historical narrative has tended to place her as her husband's assistant. This show comes to illuminate her role and to prove that the architectural and design thinking was a product of collaboration. I particularly loved the display on the second floor, with an enormous number of photographs depicting American interiors during the postwar years, demonstrating the extent of popularity of Aalto’s furniture in this country. I loved seeing Aalto’s stools in Edward Durell Stone’s modernist house of A. Conger Goodyear in Westbury NY, set next to the famed table by Isamu Noguchi. Artek was established in 1935, producing furniture in molded plywood long before this technique was adopted in the US by another husband-and-wife team, Ray and Charles Eames. The Aaltos, we learn were very ahead of the game.
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