In 1935 in Finland, four young visionaries announced a radical philosophy for design that fell squarely upon the intersection of art, design, and architecture. The group laid the groundwork that would steer the course of modern design, and in clear and propagandist language – including a heady graphical manifesto – Alvar and Aino Aalto, Maire Gullichsen, and Nils-Gustav Hahl introduced Artek, the brand that would humanize modernism. Coming out of the uncertain economy from the Great Depression, design needed to be able to endure in functionality and materials, but it should also have its own kind of beauty and provide the pleasure of art.
Today the brand name Artek is an expression of the company’s intent to couple art and technology, and to explore the ways in which both can be used to create systems and improve daily life. This fascination with systems and technology precedes their 1935 founding; an important milestone in the contextualization of the brand is the 1933 patenting of Alvar Aalto’s L-leg bent wood experiments that became a key component of many of his furniture designs. Adaptability and versatility remain standard components for every Artek design, and this standardization means that they can easily adapt their work to public and private spaces, institutions like museums or schools, or to developing the interior concepts of businesses.
Artek began as a way to promote the work of Aino and Alvar Aalto and to furnish their buildings. Their radical brand of humane modernism was invested in simplifying life, and their clear vision garnered them the favour of elite circles of theorists, artists, designers, and architects, ushering them into the ranks of artists like Pablo Picasso and Ferdinand Léger. Decades later, the brand has managed to keep pace with the evolution of design, and continues to create work strong enough to bear its reputation as being inseparable from modern Finnish identity and national cultural heritage. Today the collections include designs from the Nordic masters as well as contemporary international architects, designers, and artists. Artek has its headquarters in Helsinki and international offices in New York, Berlin, Tokyo, and Stockholm.