Masterworks: Nordic Design in the USA

Through January 2023

82 Franklin Street

Three legendary furniture designers. Three iconic seats. The latest chapter of Masterworks presents design representing the best of Scandinavian furniture exported to mid-20th Century America and acclaimed by institutions during the “Good Design” movement.

The latest chapter of Masterworks presents three iconic Scandinavian chairs which were exported to mid-20thCentury America and whose designers were beloved and promoted by Edgar Kaufmann, jr., MoMA’s influential curator and patron.  They are selected in honor of the long-awaited American museum debut of Scandinavian Design and the United States (opening October 9th at LACMA).  R & Company congratulates curators Bobbye Tigerman (LACMA) and Monica Obniski (High Museum of Art) for their landmark exhibition and catalogue.

The designers of the chairs represent the three Nordic countries, Finland, Sweden and Denmark, whose governments worked closely with American museums and curators to strengthen economic and cultural ties.  Alvar Aalto was given a solo exhibition at MoMA in 1938 and served on the jury of the seminal “Organic Design Competition” organized by Kaufmann at MoMA in 1941.  Bruno Mathsson’s chairs were acquired for the Member’s Penthouse at MoMA in 1939 and by Kaufmann for Fallingwater, his parent’s country retreat designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  Hans Wegner was regularly featured in Kaufmann’s annual Good Design exhibitions held at MoMA in the early 1950s, before he became a household name in the USA thanks to a design so perfect it became known simply as “The Chair.”

All three of the chairs have provenances which demonstrate how both the retailing of Scandinavian Design and the influence of Edgar Kaufmann’s Good Design exhibitions expanded across the country during the mid-20th century. 

Masterworks is an ongoing exhibition at 82 Franklin Street that features a rotating selection of significant works of historic design.