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A Reputation for Innovation
November 23-January 19 2014
Steve Wilson Gallery, First Floor
Al Shands and Bill and Lindy Street Galleries, Second Floor
Curated by Mina Marefat PhD, AIA

The Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft (KMAC) is pleased to announce Eero Saarinen: A Reputation for Innovation, curated by Mina Marefat, PhD, AIA on view November 23rd, 2013 through January 19th, 2014. Born in Finland, Eero Saarinen (1910 - 1961) is recognized today as one of America's most influential architects of the 20th Century. The exhibition at KMAC will highlight his brief yet brilliant career in designing numerous corporate, educational, cultural, public, and private buildings, including the Saint Louis Gateway Arch, the TWA Terminal at New York's JFK Airport, the Dulles Airport in Washington DC, and the commissioned modern home, the Miller House in Columbus IN, now owned by the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA). The exhibition is a visually rich overview documenting Eero Saarinen's groundbreaking brand of mid-century modernism.


Saarinen's interest in furniture design developed while studying at the Cranbrook Academy of Art where his architect father, Eliel Saarinen, served as director and co-founder of the school. He encouraged Eero that architecture should encompass a "total environment" including landscapes, buildings, furniture, and décor.  It was at Cranbrook that Eero met Charles Eames and collaborated on a molded plywood chair design that won first prize in the Museum of Modern Art's Organic Design in Home Furnishings competition in 1940. Saarinen took a sculptural approach to his furniture designs, building hundreds of models to achieve the perfect and most pleasing proportions. He mastered new materials like plywood and plastics indicative of the post-war age. His Pedestal Table, Tulip Chairs, Womb Chair and Executive Seating have all become easily recognizable icons of American modernism. Saarinen's Tulip Chairs and Womb Chair are still in production through Knoll Furniture.


Saarinen's regional relevance is significant and highlighted within the exhibition. Included within the display is a model of historical landmark The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri and information on the Midwestern Modernist architectural city of Columbus, Indiana where Eero and his father designed three of the six National Historic Landmarks, the Miller House, North Christian Church and First Christian Church. 


"From sculptural design to architecture Eero Saarinen made iconic pieces that embody American ingenuity and progressive thinking, and all within a relatively short time frame. His work still continues to influence the making of our living environments and the creative possibilities of engaging with it. Fortunately, many of his greatest constructions are within a 5 hour drive from Louisville. This exhibition will inspire our artists, architects, designers, city planners, students and visitors alike," says Aldy Milliken, Executive Director and Chief Curator of KMAC.


The exhibition provides a full biography of Saarinen's life from his childhood in Finland to his life in America including a little known chapter of Saarinen's secret professional life when he served in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the precursor of the CIA during World War II. It also serves as a retrospective of Saarinen's architectural projects including sketches and drawings that have never before been exhibited together, physical and digital architectural models of his structures and several of his sculptural furniture pieces that encapsulate his legendary design aesthetic.


An educational booklet produced as a brief guide to the exhibition includes essential information that complements the exhibition. This mini book is designed to look like an airline boarding pass in recognition of Saarinen's architectural contributions to air travel. They are available for purchase in the KMAC Shop.


About the Curator

Mina Marefat, PhD, AIA is a registered architect, urban designer, and an architectural historian practicing in Washington and teaching at Georgetown University. As principal of Design Research, an architectural/urban design and research/education firm she has consulted on urban revitalization, cultural projects and green design. Marefat holds a PhD in architectural history from MIT; Masters degrees in architecture and urban design from Tehran University and Harvard Graduate School of Design.  She was a 2009 Fulbright Scholar conducting research at the Fondation Le Corbusier in Paris and has held fellowships from the Library of Congress, the NEH, SSRC, and AAUW. 

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