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Design Museum Helsinki exhibits the lifeworks of Antti and Vuokko Nurmesniemi
Finlandia sofa designed by Antti, 1968, Vilka Oy
Image: Courtesy of Paavo Lehtonen

Design Museum Helsinki exhibits the lifeworks of Antti and Vuokko Nurmesniemi

A collection of images, furniture, and textile designs from the 1950s to the 2000s are on display at the Design Museum.

by Ayushi Mathur
Published on : Dec 14, 2022

A retrospective exhibition commemorating the lives and works of Finnish textile and interior designer Vuokko Nurmesniemi and interior designer Antti Nurmesniemi (1927–2003) will soon open at Design Museum Helsinki. The duo’s lifeworks have been a significant part of Finnish design history owing to their remarkable creative approaches and an evidently impactful design philosophy. The design exhibition Antti + Vuokko Nurmesniemi commenced on October 28, 2022, and will be on view until April 9, 2023, at the Finland-based museum. "The Nurmesniemis were a celebrity designer couple and have notable international careers in their own fields of expertise, so it is actually quite astonishing that their works were never before exhibited together until now," says Harry Kivilinna, the curator of the kaleidoscopic exhibition.

The illustrious exhibition displays multiple photographs, artworks, original print patterns, and furniture pieces designed by Antti and Vuokko from the 1950s to the 2000s. The designer duo contributed to building equality and the Finnish welfare society in the post-war era together as well as individually. Aside from highlighting the stories behind each of their uniquely designed products, the exhibition will also feature excerpts and anecdotes from the evolution of their atelier house. "Both Antti and Vuokko Nurmesniemi advocated for good and sustainable design practice. Antti Nurmesniemi was one of the most influential designers of his time, and Vuokko Nurmesniemi has put her words of sustainable fashion design into practice with her own company. Their design philosophy and works have stood the test of time astonishingly well," says Kivilinna.

Vuokko and Antti crossed paths for the first time during their educational years at the Institute of Industrial Arts and Crafts in Helsinki. After their marriage in 1953, Antti established his own design studio in 1956, while Vuokko founded Vuokko Oy, a Finnish textile and fashion company in 1964, before moving on to work as a fashion and pattern designer for Marimekko, a Finnish textile design brand. Both designers had significantly different working methods and personalities. While Antti’s design process is guided by discipline, meticulous planning, and documentation, Vuokko’s process is more creative and independent. "Antti was a thinker and Vuokko more of a doer. Antti was an important influence in the field of design and wanted to evoke discussion on more philosophical approaches to the role of design. Vuokko’s outlook on life was more intuitive, and creativity was essential for her," describes Mere Eskolin, Vuokko Oy’s Managing Director. The entire exhibition focuses on the assortment of artistic products that were the gifts of these esteemed designers to the world of design. "The atelier house reflects Antti Nurmesniemi’s philosophy on the significance of interior design. The structures of the house included some of the most modern technology at the time, and it oozed the futuristic house concept. The atelier house was a meeting place for their wide circle of friends and clients, and it became an important place for shooting the collections of Vuokko Oy," says Dr Susanna Aaltonen, co-curator of the design exhibition and a Docent of Art History.

Vuokko’s meticulously curated prototypes of different clothes from her vibrant design collections were well preserved and will be on display for the first time as a collective whole of almost 1,000 pieces. Similarly, characteristic furniture pieces and iconic homeware products that were the inception of Antti will also be a part of the expansive display. The Finnish industrial designer was well known for his colourful enamel coffee pots and the extravagant striped red and black chairs that, despite being as old as the early 1980s, maintain the charm of minimal chic collectables and can uplift any modern interior design. The animated furniture and textile design pieces are also accompanied by photographic accounts of the designer duo’s atelier house, located in Helsinki’s Kulosaari district, and its creative interiors. The long-term design dream of the Nurmesniemis was successfully created with an inextricably linked public and private space hosting their home as well as the design studio. Even with two separate entrances, the atelier house was designed as a space that fosters creativity in all of its facets.

Both the pioneers of industrial and textile design have had extremely productive and impactful careers. The exhibition offers a kaleidoscopic lens into the lifework of the designers who went on to become icons of design in Finland. The exhibition also highlights Antti Nurmesniemi's accomplishments as a thinker and influencer in society, in addition to his design work, and Vuokko's innovation via her prints and processes.

The exhibition Antti + Vuokko Nurmesniemi will be on view at the Design Museum Helsinki from October 28, 2022 till April 9, 2023.

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