Josef Frank at the American Swedish Institute

April 6th, 2012

I took advantage of one of the many nice days we've had this past week and walked a few miles over to the American Swedish Institute in South Minneapolis. Leading up to the grand opening of the Nelson Cultural Center adjacent to the Turnblad Mansion, the ASI is hosting a wonderful collection of exhibits. The first of these exhibits I visited was one dedicated to the works of Josef Frank (1885-1967), The Enduring Designs of Josef Frank

In 1924, Estrid Ericson (1894-1981) established Svenskt Tenn, an interior design company in Stockholm. Josef Frank had been designing furniture and textiles in Vienna since his graduation from the Vienna Institute of Technology in 1910, and his bright, cheery florals struck a chord with the tastes of Scandinavians. When Ericson asked Frank to join her design team, life in Vienna was undergoing a growing popularity of the Nazi party and an economic recession, so I imagine Josef and his Swedish wife welcomed the opportunity to relocate to Stockholm in 1933.


Frank and Ericson developed a complementary working relationship with Frank as principle designer for more than three decades. Ericson pushed Frank to develop a distinctive collection for Svenskt Tenn, and together, they created a more accessible, comfortable modern interior to counter the harsh, sterile modern of Bauhaus. Frank's fanciful, informal textile patterns and Ericson's eye for placement and pleasing combinations became known as "Swedish Modern" in the 1930s. 


The exhibition features large panels of some of his most popular textiles, along with a number of lounge chairs, cabinets, lamps and smaller pieces that he designed. The exhibition, on loan from the SFO Museum in San Francisco, is only making a few stops in the US, so be sure to see it before it packs up on July 8, 2012. Also on show is a delightful exhibition of Swedish figure carvings. The Wit in Wood: Nordic Figure Carving features some humorous and charming wooden characters by accomplished Scandinavian figure carver Harley Refsal and Minnesota carver Fred Cogelow. 

Caroline Engel for Danish Teak Classics

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