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Helsinki Design Week: Yriö Kukkapuro's "Experiment"

A show dedicated to the designer's most adventurous work

by Paolo Ferrarini
on 18 September 2017

Designer Yriö Kukkapuro is a legend in Finland. Born in 1933, he dedicated his entire life to design and education. In the '70s he was professor at University of Arts and Design Helsinki, then rector; today specialist lecturer. During his career he has created a long list of iconic designs, particularly with chairs, many of which are now in the permanent collections of notable museums such as MoMA in New York, V&A in London and Designmuseum in Helsinki.

Until 24 September Gallery Lemmetti is paying a due homage to the most experimental side of his work, with an exhibition simply entitled “Experiment”. The show is part of the official program of Helsinki Design Week and displays rare prototypes, experiments as well as new products made specifically for the show.

Juhani Lemmetti is enthusiastic about the exhibition, “Professor Kukkapuro makes almost every prototype with his own hands” he tells us, underlying how the Finnish maestro cares for crafts. Among the most recognizable products of Yriö Kukkapuro is Karuselli armchair and stool, designed for Artek in 1964 and still in production. One of the prototypes is here on display. The objects at Gallery Lemmetti show a deep love for geometry and balance, straight lines and ergonomics, black and primary colors. The connection with Kukkapuro’s commercial work emerges in some details and shapes. Here we can see the research that originated classics such as Ateljee (1964), the Remmi family (1969) and A-509 rocking chair (1985).

Professor Kukkapouro himself is quiet, and his wife Irmeli is at his side when we meet. They tell us with a smile that they have been married since 1954. Surrounded by his work, when asked about his favorite colors to work with, Kukkapouro answers, “Blue, red and yellow." Those are also the only colors we see, always balanced by the presence of black and white, in a constant dialogue with the classics of the artistic avant-garde of the 20th century, Pop Art and Rationalism.

The experimentalism of Kukkapuro can be also found in this rare undated video that is pioneering the use of performance art and design object.

Images by Paolo Ferrarini

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