Design in Scandinavia travelling exhibition, 1954 – 1957

Design in Scandinavia - Brooklyn Museum
Design in Scandinavia – Brooklyn Museum

Brilliant examples of contemporary home furnishings were shown from Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden and exposed Americans to Scandinavian design, inspiring a shift towards mid-century design.

“Design in Scandinavia” contained more than 700 examples of contemporary home furnishings designed and executed in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden.

This exhibition came to America in response to an invitation and at significant expense to the citizens of the four countries represented during its three-and-a-half-year tour of the United States and Canada. Designers, producers, critics, and representatives of the design societies in Scandinavia overcome disagreements with one another during the many months of meticulous planning in order to provide the most accurate picture of modern design in their nations. The exhibition featured modern furniture, ceramics, textiles, silver, and stainless steel items.

“Design in Scandinavia” included a generous, thorough survey of the mid-century design output from the four Scandinavian nations of Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. Denmark stood out for its sophisticated and highly cultured ceramics, furniture, and silversmithing. Sweden was known for its rigid grace and its multifaceted glass. Finland joined the scene with vivid, emotive patterns on its rugs, while Norway thrilled with her beautiful domestic crafts and woven textiles. 

Exhibition Philosophy

“To create surroundings which satisfy the needs of modern man and simply and naturally fulfil practical and esthetic requirements–and not least to teach people to realize the values of such surroundings–this has been our ideal, and, however imperfect the result, this ideal has inspired us.”

The exhibition’s architectural framework, which was created in Sweden under the direction of [a] Dane, offers a setting that is symbolically atypical of the four nations’ contributions. There is no dominant nation; each nation has its own characteristics. The chairs on show, for instance, demonstrate this fact. The Danish chairs, with their detailed designs and beautifully sculpted surfaces, originate in a nation where manual labour in tiny shops is the norm. Swedish chairs, on the other hand, are more typically made in factories. Although they are stylish in line, cosy, well-made, and similarly successful, they are created from a different point of view and under distinct economic conditions. The majority of Finnish textiles are distinguished by subdued colour in groupings of fairly similar values. Norwegian upholstery materials are more vividly coloured and show a penchant for well-defined patterns and striking contrasts between light and dark values in that country.

Design in Scandinavia, April 20, 1954 through May 16, 1954
Design in Scandinavia, April 20, 1954 through May 16, 1954

Sources

Brooklyn Museum. (1954, April 20). Brooklyn Museum; http://www.brooklynmuseum.org. https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/exhibitions/1092

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing. https://amzn.to/3ElmSlL

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