Bobbye Tigerman, HAA '02, is the Marilyn B. and Calvin B. Gross Curator, Decorative Arts and Design, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. She recently published a new volume titled Scandinavian Design and the United States, 1890-1980.
This stunning book examines design exchanges between the United States and Scandinavia over nearly a century and explores the fascinating reasons why Scandinavian design has continued to resonate with Americans.
Focusing on the extensive influence of Scandinavian design in the United States, this book shows how Nordic ideas about modern design and the objects themselves had an indelible impact on American culture and material life. It also considers America’s influence on Scandinavian design, showing how cultural exchange is mutual by nature. In addition to familiar material like Danish furniture and Swedish glass, readers will learn about America’s little-known “Viking Revival” style; the work of Howard Smith, an African-American artist who immigrated to Finland in the 1960s; and the myriad ways Scandinavian toys and household goods helped shape American child-rearing practices. The perfect addition to any Danish modern coffee table, this elegant book traces how Scandinavian design became an integral part of what is considered “American design.”
The accompanying exhibition will open at the Nationalmuseum Sweden in October 2021, followed by stops at the Nasjonalmuseet in Oslo, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Milwaukee Art Museum.
Scandinavian Design and the United States, 1890–1980 is the first exhibition to examine the extensive design exchanges between the United States and the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden) during the 20th century. Serving as a corrective to the dominant narrative of central European émigrés shaping modern American design culture, the exhibition will present a new international story, featuring accounts of Scandinavian designers who immigrated to the United States; Americans who studied or worked in Nordic countries; the ambitious campaigns to market and export Scandinavian design to American consumers; and the American and Nordic figures who championed sustainable and accessible design practice. Many of the issues considered in the exhibition remain relevant today, including the contributions of immigrants to their adopted societies, the importance of international exchange, critical analysis of cultural myths, and concern about environmental sustainability and accessibility.