Monday, January 23, 2012

Josef Frank at the Nordic Heritage Museum

I'm crazy about the bold, exuberant designs of Josef Frank! His colorful, nature-inspired fabrics look totally contemporary, but they were designed decades ago. I saw some samples of this amazing work this weekend at the Nordic Heritage Museum, which also had a few examples of Frank's chairs, sofas, lamps, and other furnishings. They even have a few Frank pillows for sale in the gift shop. If you have lots of money, you can still buy Frank-designed furniture, textiles, and accessories at the Swedish shop Svenskt Tenn, which recruited Austrian-born Frank in 1934. (Multitalented Frank was also an architect. He was born in Austria, but became a Swedish citizen.)

Besides the Frank exhibit (which, unfortunately, is small, but definitely worth seeing), the Nordic museum has an exhibit on immigration, which has visitors step through life-size dioramas that take them on a journey from the 19th century Scandinavian countryside to passenger ships to Ellis island and the dwellings and workplaces in New York, the Midwest, and the Pacific Northwest. These "buildings" and artifacts do an excellent job of giving you a sense of what life was like for these people. The visuals work on their own, but the explanatory signage provides great context as well, and happily, it's not dumbed-down for the masses. On another floor, there are rooms of clothing, folk art, household items, and bric-a-brac from Denmark, Island, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. There are also exhibits on the logging and fishing industries, which provided employment for many Nordic immigrants in the Seattle area. Like the Swedish Cultural Center, the Nordic Museum has classes, films, and events. But if you want to catch the Josef Frank exhibit, visit before February 19!

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