Exhibition Premiers in U.S. at Price Tower Arts Center: Works of Modernist Designer Greta Magnusson Grossman on Display

Jan 12, 2012

Greta Grossman, architect’s own residence, Claircrest Drive, Beverly Hills, CA, 1956-57. Photograph by John Hartley, courtesy of the Swedish Architecture Museum, Stockholm, Sweden.

(Bartlesville, OK) The work of one of the 20th century’s most prolific women designers will make its United States debut in Oklahoma at The Price Tower, a Frank Lloyd Wright designed National Historic Landmark. The Oklahoma premier of Greta Magnusson Grossman: A Car and Some Shorts, a traveling exhibition developed by the Swedish Museum of Architecture, the first-ever to chronicle the career of Swedish-American architect and designer Greta Magnusson Grossman (1906-1999), will be on display from January 20 through May 6, 2012 at Price Tower Arts Center, 510 S Dewey Avenue, Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

The exhibition aims to bring a renewed appreciation throughout the United States for the work of Greta Magnusson Grossman, whose work once published by the U.S. Department of State as a “true picture…of the American way of life,” has now faded into obscurity. Objects on display will include her most iconic and important furniture, lighting design, archival materials and clippings from her press scrapbooks arranged in groupings to tell the story of her design career both in Sweden and in the United States.

“My hope for the exhibition in general is to continue the momentum that began in Stockholm and to build the same kind of excitement and awareness across the United States. In the long term, I would very much like to fortify her place among those considered to be the great and most important mid-twentieth-century designers and architects” said Evan Snyderman, cofounder of R20th Century Gallery, New York City, and cocurator of Greta Magnusson Grossman: A Car and Some Shorts.

Claircrest Drive, Beverly Hills, CA, 1959. Photo by Julius Shulman copywrite J Paul Getty Trust. Greta Magnusson Grossman, who is considered the matriarch of design in Sweden, began her career in industrial and interior design and architecture in the 1920s. During a career that would span four decades, Greta Magnusson Grossman became the first women to graduate from the Stockholm School of Industrial Design, the first women to be awarded by the Swedish Craft Association for furniture design, the first women to own and operate a furniture studio, and one of the most prolific woman modernist designers of the 20th century.

Her elegant, pared down decor was based on her belief that, “modern furniture is a growth, progressing out of the needs of contemporary living. It’s not a superimposed style, but an answer to our present conditions...It has developed out of our preferences for living in a modern way.”

Many of Greta Magnusson Grossman’s influences came from European Modernism which had been brought to the United States earlier by architects like Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Their influences helped lead her to create designs that were unique and colorful, yet surprisingly functional for their users.

Her designs were challenging and cutting-edge for the time. They were set apart by their petite proportions and asymmetrical lines and for employing materials which were not commonly used at the time, such as laminated table tops.

Greta Magnusson Grossman’s work for Glenn of California, which many argue is her most well-known and sophisticated portrays this design style in its truest sense. These pieces feature rich, colorful textiles and woods alongside black plastic laminate and wrought iron.

This design style appealed to the tastes of many of her clients who were often women in professional fields such as science, medicine and law. Her modern avant-garde style appealed to them as did the functionality of her designs—clients like Grega Garbo, Joan Fontaine and Gracie Allen. 

Price Tower Arts Center Curator of Collections and Exhibitions, Scott W. Perkins, adds, “Greta Magnusson Grossman was a woman who approached design using machine-made materials and natural ones and blended them with practical functionality for her clients. We hope through this exhibition of her work, visitors will rediscover her contributions to architecture and design and be inspired to learn more about the importance of design in our everyday lives.”

In the 1940s and 1950s Greta Magnusson Grossman designed two of her most iconic products, the Grasshopper floor lamp and the Cobra floor and table lamps. Her Grasshopper lamp which had a tripod stand and an aluminum bullet shaped hood mounted on a flexible arm became widely imitated during this time. The Cobra lamp also received critical acclaim and went on to win the Good Design award in 1950 and was exhibited at the Good Design Show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

In addition to her furniture designs for companies like Barker Brothers, Glenn of California, Sherman Bertram, Martin/Brattrud and Modern Line, Greta Magnusson Grossman is also remembered for the spectacular architecture of the homes she designed. During her career, Grossman designed 16 homes; 14 in California, 1 in San Francisco and 1 in her native Sweden.

Grossman was as unique in her architectural designs as she was in her furniture designs creating breathtaking homes that have stood the test of time.  Her homes were often situated on the sides of a hill or canyon with the aid of stilts and similar to her furniture designs the homes were smaller than those of her contemporaries, often less than 1,500 square feet in size. In these homes Greta Magnusson Grossman employed curtain walls of glass and free-flowing floor plans to take advantage of the views from their hilltop locations.

Her work was recognized throughout her career in American, British, French, Italian, Dutch, German, Polish and Swedish magazines and newspapers and in museums such as The National Museum (Stockholm, Sweden), Röhsska Museet (Gothenburg, Sweden), Museum of Modern Art (New York, United States), Museum of Industry and Science (Chicago, United States) and the de Young Museum (San Francisco, United States). She retired from design in the late 1960s and quietly vanished from history books until only recently.

The Price Tower Arts Center showing of this exhibition has been organized by Scott W. Perkins, curator of collections and exhibitions. The exhibition organization and related catalogue are a joint venture between Arkitekturmuseet, the Swedish Museum of Architecture, Stockholm, and R 20th Century Gallery, New York. The theme and content were developed by Evan Snyderman of R 20th Century Gallery and Karin Åberg Waern, curator, Arkitekturmuseet. This exhibition is made possible at Price Tower Arts Center in part by Arkitekturmuseet, The Swedish Council of America, ConocoPhillips, Bank of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.

The exhibition opened at the Swedish Museum of Architecture on February 9, 2010 and was on display until May 16, 2010. After its initial appearance in the United States at Price Tower Arts Center, it will go on to travel to the Pasadena Museum of California Art in October 2012.

Greta Magnusson Grossman: A Car and Some Shorts will be on display at Price Tower Arts Center in Bartlesville, Okla. from January 20 through May 6, 2012. For more information please contact Price Tower Arts Center at 918.336.4949 or visit the website at www.pricetower.org.

About Price Tower Arts Center
The landmark destination for art, architecture and design, Price Tower Arts Center, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit, provides local, regional and global audiences with the experience of great art, architecture and design in an arts complex whose centerpiece is Frank Lloyd Wright's only skyscraper, the Price Tower.

This National Historic Landmark building, completed in 1956, contains a museum with permanent and changing exhibition galleries, original and restored historic Wright interiors (available by tour), and The Wright Place museum store.  The building has also been nominated as a World Heritage Site.

Visitors may also experience Wright's masterpiece as guests of Inn at Price Tower, a high-design hotel that the Arts Center has created within Wright's skyscraper, along with the Inn's eclectic Copper Bar.

Historic tours are available with advanced reservations. Admission is $12 adults, $10 seniors (65+), $10 for children 18 and under and includes admission to the museum exhibitions (applicable sales tax not included). For more information, call 918.336.4949 or visit the web site at www.pricetower.org.

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Exhibition Programs

January 24 -         Tower Tots: Clay Dala Horses (Part I)
Morning story and activity hour for children ages 3 to 6 (with accompanying adult). Registration required, contact Ginger Tomshany at 918/336.4949, Ext 115. Cost: Free. Time: 10:00 to 11:00am.

January 28 -        Price Tower Arts Center’s 2012 Annual Gala, Nothing But Modern
Enjoy dinner, drinks, dancing and live and silent auctions at Price Tower Arts Center’s Annual Gala. This year’s theme is Nothing But Modern, and is in conjunction with the Greta Magnusson Grossman: A Car and Some Shorts exhibition. Tickets are $150 or $225 for VIP access. Please call Amanda at 918.336.4949 EXT 107 to get more details, as well as learn about sponsorship opportunities.

February 7 –         Tower Tots: Valentine Tea Party
Morning story and activity hour for children ages 3 to 6 (with accompanying adult). Registration required, contact Ginger Tomshany at 918/336.4949, EXT 115. Cost: free. Time: 10:00 to 11:00am.

February 19 -     Free Sunday: Miniature Furniture
Join us for free, family friendly activities and learn more about our World Heritage nominated building and the exhibition Greta Magnusson Grossman: A Car and Some Shorts. Experience art, architecture and design as you explore the many facets of the Price Tower. Time: 12-5pm. Cost: Free.

February 21 -     Tower Tots: Paper Beads
Morning story and activity hour for children ages 3 to 6 (with accompanying adult). Registration required, contact Ginger Tomshany at 918/336.4949, EXT 115. Cost: free. Time: 10:00 to 11:00am.

March 6 -         Tower Tots: Clay Dala Horses (Part II)
Morning story and activity hour for children ages 3 to 6 (with accompanying adult). Registration required, contact Ginger Tomshany at 918/336.4949, EXT 115. Cost: free. Time: 10:00 to 11:00am.

March 18 -         Free Sunday: Swedish Dala Horses
Join us for free, family friendly activities and learn more about our World Heritage nominated building and the exhibition Greta Magnusson Grossman: A Car and Some Shorts. Experience art, architecture and design as you explore the many facets of the Price Tower. Time: 12-5pm. Cost: Free.

March 20 -          Tower Tots: Letters and Lines
Morning story and activity hour for children ages 3 to 6 (with accompanying adult). Registration required, contact Ginger Tomshany at 918/336.4949, EXT 115. Cost: free. Time: 10:00 to 11:00am.

April 3 -         Tower Tots: Miniature Furniture
Morning story and activity hour for children ages 3 to 6 (with accompanying adult). Registration required, contact Ginger Tomshany at 918/336.4949, EXT 115. Cost: free. Time: 10:00 to 11:00am.

April 15 -         Free Sunday: Paper Beads
Join us for free, family friendly activities and learn more about our World Heritage nominated building and the exhibition Greta Magnusson Grossman: A Car and Some Shorts. Experience art, architecture and design as you explore the many facets of the Price Tower. Time: 12-5pm. Cost: Free.

April 17 -         Tower Tots: Silhouette Portraits
Morning story and activity hour for children ages 3 to 6 (with accompanying adult). Registration required, contact Ginger Tomshany at 918/336.4949, EXT 115. Cost: free. Time: 10:00 to 11:00am.

May 1 -        Tower Tots: Swedish Flag Day
Morning story and activity hour for children ages 3 to 6 (with accompanying adult). Registration required, contact Ginger Tomshany at 918/336.4949, EXT 115. Cost: free. Time: 10:00 to 11:00am.
 

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