Tulsa design collector George Kravis has long been a pivotal figure when it comes to building up formidable holdings. Now, New York's Cooper Hewitt musem is staging ‘Energizing the Everyday: Gifts from the George R Kravis II Collection’, with more than 100 examples on display.
‘What’s on view encapsulates the evolution and breadth of modern and contemporary design,’ says Caroline Baumann, the Cooper Hewitt's director.
Kravis focused on this specialty at an early age. ‘I began collecting when I was ten and then took on a Bakelite RCA record changer,’ he says. Since then he has explored the entire spectrum of design. The diverse collection spans Alexander Girard’s punchy geometric patterned textiles, to the sleek 1937 Waterwitch outboard motor in gleaming cast aluminum and brass, and onto Shiro Kuramata’s 1978 laminated plate glass armchair.
Other early examples, like Gilbert Rohde’s spare 1934 ‘Z Clock’, made from chrome plated brass and plate glass, and Peter Müller Munks 1935 chromium-plated sheet brass 'Normandie' pitcher are extraordinary in terms of their clean, avant-garde lines. Similarly, Norman Bel Geddes’ 1940 'Patriot' radio in black and red plastic remains just as riveting for its sharp design.
Besides Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic 1956 copper table from the Price Tower in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, there’s Mathias Bengtsson’s 1999 laser-cut plywood 'Slice Chair', which is right in tune with Tony Cragg’s sculptures. Olafur Eliasson’s 2012 'Little Sun' solar-powered LED lantern in a yellow plastic daisy-like shape is another highlight and surprisingly small for such a powerful statement on energy saving concerns.