Alvar Aalto - The Collector: Icons of Design New York Tuesday, December 16, 2014 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Employee of Oy Huonekalu-ja Rakennustyötehdas Ab, Turku, Finland
    Thence by descent through the Virta family
    Jukka Murto, Helsinki
    Galerie Dewindt, Brussels
    Phillips, de Pury & Luxembourg, New York, "20-19th Century Design Art," December 11, 2002, lot 56
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Literature

    Juhani Pallasmaa, ed., Alvar Aalto furniture, exh. cat., Museum of Finnish Architecture Finnish Society of Crafts and Design Artek, Helsinki, 1984, back cover, pp. 76, 80, 88-89, 126
    Peter Reed, ed., Alvar Aalto: Between Humanism and Materialism, exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1998, pp. 164-65, 201
    Pirkko Tuukkanen, ed., Alvar Aalto Designer, Vammala, 2002, pp. 18, 71, 165
    Tuberculosis Sanatorium, Paimio: 1929-1933, exh. cat., Alvar Aalto Museum, Jyväskylä, 2004, n.p. for period images

  • Catalogue Essay

    In thrall to the swaying curtains of the auroral arcs, Alvar Aalto looped and flexed all his lines: the free-form edge of his Savoy vase, the undulating ceiling of the Viipuri City Library, the floating walls of the Finnish Pavilion at the 1939 World’s Fair, and the fluid form of his “Paimio” armchair, whose closed arms are relieved by the open curves of its molded seat.

    With the present model, originally designed as a lounge chair for the Paimio Sanitorium (1931-1932), Aalto achieved new heights in his search to “humanize architecture,” in this instance reputedly angling the seat back to ease the breathing of tuberculosis patients. As Göran Schildt has stated, Aalto considered his work for the Sanitorium to be an act of health care “in which every architectural detail had a clinical function and formed part of the treatment.” (Alvar Aalto: The Complete Catalogue, p. 67)

    “Paimio” chairs are in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

  • 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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Early "Paimio" armchair, model no. 41/83C

circa 1935
Birch-veneered molded plywood, bent birch.
25 x 23 2/4 x 33 1/4 in. (63.5 x 59.7 x 84.5 cm)
Manufactured by Oy Huonekalu-ja Rakennustyötehdas Ab, Turku, Finland. Impressed with 1.

$20,000 - 30,000 

Sold for $22,500

Contact Specialist
Alexander Payne
Worldwide Head of Design
+44 20 7318 4052

Alex Heminway
Director of Design
New York
+1 212 940 1268

The Collector: Icons of Design

New York Auction 16 December 2014 5pm