Wirkkala and Bryk

Diverse events and exhibitions will celebrate this year and in 2016 the birth’s centenary of the Finnish designer Tapio Wirkkala and his wife, the ceramic artist Rut Bryk.

Rut Bryk, <i>Katettu pöytä</i>, Banquet Table. Photo Rosenthal
The designer, sculptor and academician Tapio Wirkkala (1915–1985) and his wife, the graphic designer and ceramic artist Rut Bryk (1916–1999), were influential in launching the concept of modern Finnish, and Scandinavian, design, which still continues to enjoy international acclaim even today.

With the diverse events and exhibitions, and the products and books to be launched, the centenary year aims to increase the visibility of the important work done by Wirkkala and Bryk.

In addition, the centenary highlights new Finnish design thinking. The content of the centenary year programme in Finland and abroad is a natural continuation to the efforts to improve the national and international recognition of Finnish design.

Tapio Wirkkala, Caravelle. Photo Design Tapio Wirkkala Archive
Top: Rut Bryk, Katettu pöytä, Banquet Table. Photo Rosenthal. Above: Tapio Wirkkala, Caravelle. Photo Design Tapio Wirkkala Archive. Ruokailuvälineet Cutlery

“8 Exposures – New Views on Tapio Wirkkala”, held at the Ateneum Art Museum in Helsinki, is an exhibition curated by the artist Maaria Wirkkala. Eight well-known Finnish artists have contributed works of art, created based on the work and philosophy of Tapio Wirkkala. The artists featured are Elina Brotherus, Kira Gluschkoff, Pirjo Honkasalo, Jorma Puranen, Matti Saanio, Pentti Sammallahti, Rauno Träskelin and Sakari Viika.

Wirkkala worked for the Venetian glass factory Venini, starting in the mid-1960s. Even today, the Bolle bottles designed by him are some of Venini’s best-selling products. The sales exhibition “Tapio Wirkkala – The colours of Venice”, featuring Wirkkala’s designs for Venini, will open on 3 June at the Design Forum Showroom in Helsinki.

Tapio Wirkkala, Kotilo, Vaneri Plywood. Photo TWRB Archive
Tapio Wirkkala, Kotilo, Vaneri Plywood. Photo TWRB Archive

The Design Museum in Helsinki celebrates the centenary year by staging a summer exhibition in its gallery. The exhibition “Wirkkala Revisited” offers new takes on Wirkkala’s life and work. Bora Hong of South Korea, the director of Gallery Factory in Seoul, has been invited to be the curator of the exhibition. Hong approaches Wirkkala from the points of view of manual skill and craft. The curator’s idea is to associate Wirkkala’s work with new voices: contemporary designers, contemporary artists, choreographers and film-makers. The exhibition present Wirkkala’s unique and serially produced original works, and interpretations and applications of the designer’s works made using 3D printing.

The Rosenthal porcelain factory became a pioneer in modern product design when it began its cooperation with designers such as Tapio Wirkkala in the 1950s. Rosenthal products were scarcely available in Finland, but in Germany, pieces designed by Wirkkala won several awards between 1962 and 1983. In 2014, Kaustinen Culture Ltd bought a collection of more than 400 porcelain objects that Wirkkala designed for Rosenthal. The unique and internationally rare collection has been put together by the German collector Herman Diederichs over several decades. The collection is on show for the public at the Folk Art Centre in Kaustinen. A selection of Rosenthal porcelain will also be on display in an exhibition “Tapio Wirkkala’s porcelain for Rosenthal 1956–1985” at the Riihimäki Glass Museum from 12 June to 31 December 2015. The exhibition will present porcelain, ceramics, cutlery and glass designed by Tapio Wirkkala for Rosenthal. Among the exhibits are rarities such as models of products made of different materials.

Tapio Wirkkala, Kuksa, TWRB centenary glasses. Photo Timo Junttila
Tapio Wirkkala, Kuksa, TWRB centenary glasses. Photo Timo Junttila

Produced by the TWRB foundation and designed by Harri Koskinen, the main centenary exhibition, “STILL / LIFE – Tapio Wirkkala Retrospective Exhibition”, will open on 30 October at the Korundi House of Culture in Rovaniemi, Finland. Instead of staging a traditional retrospective exhibition, Koskinen, a new generation designer, approaches Wirkkala’s work as a kind of backdrop to today’s design. In March 2016, the exhibition will move on to the Sámi Museum Siida in Inari in Lapland, and from there, to the Kaustinen Folk Art Centre in the autumn of 2016. At the beginning of February 2017, the exhibition will open at the EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Finland.

For Wirkkala and Bryk, Lapland was a second home, a place they always returned to after their journeys. Many of Wirkkala’s classic works were created in Lapland, including the knives and the glass sculpture Paadar’s Ice, which won him the Grand Prix at the 1960 Milan Triennale.

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