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  • Provenance

    Important private collection, Finland

  • Catalogue Essay

    Alvar Aalto designed the present wall relief in the mid-1950s for the executive boardroom of Helsinki’s Social Insurance Institution (KELA), the Finnish government agency which oversees retirement, student and unemployment benefits as well as other social security programmes. The ‘spaghetti’ bends of the relief relate to the bundled bentwood rods comprising the arms of a birch and leather chair Aalto designed for the sixth floor of the KELA headquarters. Rather than install the present work at KELA, Aalto gifted it as an
    expression of gratitude to a carpenter with whom he worked.

  • 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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Wall relief

Bent laminated birch plywood, metal.
130.8 x 20.3 x 14 cm (51 1/2 x 8 x 5 1/2 in)
Produced by Korhonen OY, Turku.

£30,000 - 40,000 

Sold for £37,250

Important Nordic Design

17 November 2011