IITTALA – THE STARS OF FINNISH GLASS
The Bunkamura Museum in Tokyo
The first travelling exhibition on Iittala designs will tour Japan and visit seven museums. Finnish lifestyle is making a noteworthy appearance alongside Finnish glass in the exhibition. Iittala design products also have ties with traditional Japanese art and culture. The travelling exhibition Iittala – The Stars of Finnish Glass by the Design Museum Helsinki is the first exhibition on Iittala’s design products in Japan. The exhibition was put together using the Design Museum’s extensive Iittala Collection of over 10,000 items. For the purposes of the exhibition, 400 items, sketches and images were given on loan by the collection. The travelling exhibition will first open at the Bunkamura Museum in Tokyo and will then visit six museums around Japan in 2023 and 2024.
Iittala, established in 1881, is a Finnish design icon and an international success story. Iittala glass products and home decor ensure that the brand is a part of the daily life of many Finns, while internationally, Iittala has been a flagship of Finnish creativity and lifestyle over several decades.
“It would be difficult to imagine Finnish lives without Iittala, as it has been such an integral part of the Finnish identity and lives. This exhibition celebrates Iittala, while offering a glimpse of Finland and the Finnish way of life. In its core, the Finnish lifestyle is very simple, steered by functionality, simplicity, beauty and sustainability, qualities that are present and in the heart of Iittala’s work as well,” states Jukka Savolainen, Director of the Design Museum.
The Japanese have had a particular interest in Finland and Finnish design for several decades. Exhibitions featuring Finnish design products have been organized in Japan since the late 1950s. The travelling exhibition Iittala – The Stars of Finnish Glass will be organized in collaboration with Japanese media group The Asahi Shimbun which publishes the nation’s third-largest newspaper by the same name. The Design Museum Helsinki has previous experience from an exhibition project with The Asahi Shimbun, with the Marimekko-Design, Fabric, Lifestyle that travelled Japan in 2015–2017.
“Finnish design seems to resonate with Japanese sensibility in particular. Among Finnish design brands, Iittala products have been received with special sympathy and admiration thanks to their simple but functional design and playfulness. The exhibition will showcase Iittala’s art from different perspectives, some of which might also be found in the traditional culture and arts of Japan; the respect for timeless design, authentic craftsmanship, nature-inspired creativity, and so on. We believe that when we take this exhibition to Japan to introduce such views, Japanese audiences may well understand why we are so attracted to the art of Iittala, and why we feel special sympathy for Finnish design,” says Tomoe Takagi, who is a Chief Producer of The Asahi Shimbun.
The Iittala – The Stars of Finnish Glass exhibition covers the history and present of Iittala, the themes that steer the company’s design and production process and some of its key designers. The theme component is based on the exhibition Iittala – Caleidoscope, From Nature to Culture featured at the Design Museum Helsinki in the spring of 2021 and was curated by architect Florencia Colombo and industrial designer Ville Kokkonen. Iittala’s connection to Japan is explored in more detail through designer Kaj Franck who travelled in Japan repeatedly, gaining inspiration and influences for his work. Japanese designer Akira Minagawa, Minä Perhonen, architect Kengo Kuma and also recently deceased designer Issey Miyake, who have all collaborated with Iittala, are also featured.
“Iittala’s timeless and durable design has inspired Japanese people for a long time, after all, Iittala products have been sold in Japan since the 1950s. Today, Japan is one of Iittala’s most important market areas and we offer our local customers a window into Finnish design and lifestyle, e.g. at our flagship store in Omotesando, Tokyo. We are happy that Iittala’s extensive collections from different decades can now be introduced to such a wide audience in Japan through the exhibition,” says Carolina Bade, VP, Iittala’s business and offers.
The Iittala glass factory was established in 1881 and continues its operation in the village of Iittala, Hämeenlinna. It is the largest glass factory in the Nordic countries and the only active glass factory in Finland today. During its long history, Iittala has contributed to the Finnish glass industry in a significant manner, and it has a key role in preserving the art of glass-blowing to this day. Iittala is a significant part of Finnish design history and modern design philosophy. The company has gained an international reputation since the 1950s. Known for its design, the company is happy to offer its designers the chance to experiment and create new things. The internationally renowned Finnish design icons, like Tapio Wirkkala, Timo Sarpaneva, Gunnel Nyman, Kaj Franck and Alvar and Aino Aalto have close ties with Iittala. Today, the Iittala product portfolio includes tableware and home decor products.