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Stamps of Approval

A celebrated collector brings to life the latest series of USPS commemorative stamps

by Karen Day in Design on 15 September 2011

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Philanthropic art collector George R. Kravis II has a penchant for "almost anything with a motor, light, cord or battery." The former radio head's passion for industrial design has led him to amass thousands of objects. Some he used over the years and some he kept in pristine condition, but all are equally treasured.

Tulsa-based Kravis was recently at NYC's Cooper-Hewitt museum for the unveiling of the U.S. Postal Services' latest Forever stamps, a series dedicated to pioneers of American design. Noticing that he owned many of the designs, he offered to loan them to the museum for a small exhibit, now on view through 25 September 2011. Kravis was able to donate eight of the 12 designs, initially curated by veteran art director Derry Noyes.

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Kravis told us his favorite design among the assortment is Norman Bell Geddes’ 1940 “Patriot” radio, which came in red, blue or white base colors. The white was not successful in his opinion, noticing that after several years its brilliancy turned to more of a muted butter color. Kravis also shed light on why Raymond Loewy's 1933 pencil sharpener was not present, explaining the design never moved beyond the prototype stage. "The prototype was put up for auction, and then stolen. They do not know where it is today, but if they put it into production I know a lot of people who would like to purchase one."

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Pulling out his iPhone—complete with black perforated leather case—Kravis showed us an image of his latest obsession, an environmentally-friendly sports car still in development. With his finger on the pulse, Kravis remains one of the most important collectors of art and design, and his enthusiasm for it is contagious.

The "Stamps of Approval" exhibition will be on display for the following ten days, through 25 September 2011 in the foyer of the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt museum for design before traveling on to other cities around the U.S.

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