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Described as a “watershed” for its decorative arts and design collection, late last year Carnegie Museum of Art received a remarkable and unusual gift: 347 design objects from the collection of the late George R. Kravis II, a prominent American design collector. It will allow the museum to tell new and different stories about the far-reaching impacts of design on daily life.
When curator Rachel Delphia assumed leadership of the department in 2013, her number one priority was to grow the modern and contemporary design collection. Thanks to this single gift, an extraordinary 65 percent of the designers Delphia named as “missing players” are now part of the collection. Among the significant additions are works by German designer Marianne Brandt, Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, and leading 20th-century American designers Alexander Girard, George Nelson, and Russel Wright.
“This gift transformed the collection,” says Delphia. “It moves the needle in a big way and shifts the conversations we can have with visitors. In terms of a single gift, I can’t think of another that has had as much of an overarching impact other than the Ailsa Mellon Bruce gift in 1970.” Upon the Pittsburgh philanthropist’s passing, Bruce’s executors donated 2,800-objects from her collection to the museum, and the decorative arts and design galleries bear her name.
Having fostered a relationship with Kravis and his staff over years, Delphia put the museum in the position to be among the first wave of select museums to vie for favorites from his 4,000-object collection, which was housed at the Kravis Design Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Among the biggest wins for Pittsburgh: radios, clocks, household appliances, chairs, and cocktail shakers, all from the 20th and 21st centuries.
Greta von Nessen, designer, Nessen, Inc., manufacturer, Anywhere Table Lamp, c. 1952
George Sakier, designer, American Radiator and Standard Sanitary Corporation, manufacturer, Sink with stand, c. 1930
Jens Quistgaard, designer, Dansk International Designs, Ltd., manufacturer, Ice Bucket, 1958
Charles Eames, designer, Ray Eames, designer, Zenith Radio Corporation, manufacturer, Radio, model 6D030 Z, 1940s
Eva Zeisel, designer, Red Wing Potteries, Inc., manufacturer, Town and Country Salt and Pepper Shaker, c. 1945
Paul T. Frankl, designer, Johnson Furniture Company, manufacturer, Coffee Table, c. 1948
Reuben Haley, designer, Phoenix Glass Company, manufacturer, Ruba Rombic Fish Bowl, 1928
Norman Bel Geddes, designer, Emerson Radio and Phonograph Corporation, manufacturer, Patriot radio, model FC–400, c. 1940
Attributed designer Austin Munson, Wear-Ever Aluminum Company, Mirro Medallion Tripod Serving Bowl with Lid, c. 1950
Gifts from the George R. Kravis II Collection
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