Alvar Aalto - Design Masters New York Tuesday, December 16, 2014 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Finnish Pavilion, New York World’s Fair, 1939-1940
    Ed Langbein, New York
    Thence by descent
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    "New York World's Fair," Finnish Pavilion, New York, April 30, 1939-October 31, 1940

  • Literature

    Alvar and Aino Aalto as Glass Designers, exh. cat., Iittala Glass Museum, Helsinki, 1988, cat. no. 47

  • Catalogue Essay

    The present lots were acquired together from the Finnish Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair in 1939-1940 by industrial designer Ed Langbein, whose own work appears in the permanent collection of The Museum of Modern Art, and other examples of which were presented in “Table Settings: The Old With The New,” an exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum in summer 1957.

    Alvar Aalto’s Finnish Pavilion, known for its undulating and protruding walls, suggested the aurora borealis (northern lights) so prevalent in his native country. Mounted along the stepped walls of the interior were photographs promoting Finland’s resources and industrial prowess.

    Aalto espoused his theory of the fair, when he said: "An exhibition should be what in the early days it used to be, a general store: in which all possible objects are grouped together in a dense display—whether it be fish, cloth or cheese. Therefore in this pavilion I have attempted to provide the densest possible concentration of display, a space filled with wares, next to and above and beneath each other, agricultural and industrial products often just a few inches apart. It was no easy work—composing the individual elements into one symphony."

    Both model dishes are from the same sketch series “Eskimoerindens skinnbuxa” (The Eskimo Woman’s Leather Breaches), which won first prize in a 1936 design competition organized by Karjula-Iittala Glassworks, Finland. This series was also included in the Finnish Pavilion at the 1937 Exposition Internationale, Paris, and on the Karhula-Iittala Glassworks stand at the Finnish Housing Exhibition in 1939.

  • Artist Biography

    Alvar Aalto

    Finnish • 1898 - 1976

    In contrast with the functionalism of the International Style (as well the neoclassicism put forward by the Nazi and Soviet regimes), Alvar Aalto brought a refreshing breath of humanism to modern design: "True architecture exists only where man stands in the center," he wrote. Aalto designed furniture in stack-laminated plywood composed of Finnish birch, which was cost-effective and lent warmth to his interiors. Aalto also revived Finnish glass design with his entries in the various Karhula-Iitala glassworks competitions throughout the 1930s.

    In 1936 he won first place for a collection of colorful, wavy vases in various sizes titled Eskimoerindens skinnbuxa (The Eskimo Woman’s Leather Breeches). The vases were an immediate success and the most popular size, now known as the "Savoy" vase, is still in production today. Aalto's freeform designs, in harmony with human needs and nature, anticipated the organic modernism of the 1950s and 1960s; in particular, his innovations in bent plywood had a major impact on designers such as Charles and Ray Eames.

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Rare dish, model no. 9752, from the "Eskimoerindens skinnbuxa" series

designed 1936, produced circa 1937
Opal glass still-blown into mold.
7/8 x 14 3/4 x 10 1/2 in. (2.2 x 37.5 x 26.7 cm)
Produced by Karhula-Iittala Glassworks, Finland.

$12,000 - 18,000 

Contact Specialist
Meaghan Roddy
Head of Sale
New York
+ 1 212 940 1266

Design Masters

New York Auction 16 December 2014 6pm