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Philbrook Announces Major Gift of Modern and Contemporary Industrial Design

TULSA, OK.- The Philbrook Museum of Art is pleased to announce a gift of nearly 100 works of twentieth- and twenty-first-century design from the George R. Kravis II Collection. The promised gift will immediately provide Philbrook with a core collection of exceptional design material and establish a vital new collecting area for the Museum.

From American Art Deco and Streamline to mid-century modern and contemporary, the collection includes objects reflecting the evolution and breadth of modern industrial design. Randall Suffolk, Philbrook’s director said: “This important gift will add a completely new dimension to the visitor’s experience and provide an exceptional new platform for exhibitions, programming, and research. We’re thrilled that this collection will ultimately reside at Philbrook and remain in Tulsa for generations to come.”

To that end, Philbrook is planning a special gallery to open in 2009 which will incorporate works from this collection and be displayed within the permanent collection galleries. The installation will be on view for two years.

Mr. Kravis stated: “This collection has been a personal joy for me to acquire and build, as well as a privilege to live with. I’m delighted that through this gift it will be shared for the benefit, enjoyment, and education of all those that visit the Museum.” He added, “Philbrook has been an important part of my life and I’m pleased that this collection will find a permanent home there.”

The gift includes objects designed by many iconic figures in the history of international industrial design from 1900 to the present. From the 1930s and ‘40s the collection includes work by such designers as Norman Bel Geddes, Henry Dreyfuss, Paul Frankl, Peter Müller-Munk, Gilbert Rhode, Walter Dorwin Teague, John Vassos and Walter Van Nessan. Among the collection’s highlights from these American modernists is a short wave radio transmitter called Radio Nurse designed in 1937 by the American sculptor Isamu Noguchi. Noguchi designed the receiver shaped like a head in a nurse’s cap. Its status as a superb sculpture is indicated by the fact that it was exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1939.

There are mid-century works by Charles and Ray Eames, George Nelson, Herbert Krenchel, and Russel Wright, as well as contemporary pieces by Shiro Kuramata, Marc Newson, Eliot Noyes, Philippe Starck, and Ettore Sottsass. Among the outstanding examples of contemporary design is a group of acrylic pieces designed by the Japanese architect Kuramata. Combining a sensuous beauty with technical virtuosity, these pieces covey a peaceful simplicity characteristic of some of the best late 20th Century design.

In light of the Kravis gift, Philbrook has used acquisition funds to purchase Walter Dorwin Teague’s Sparton Nocturne (1934) radio. Introduced as “revolutionary” in its design, the Nocturne was also described as “a daring and brilliant ensemble in glass and metal.” The radio is exceedingly large (45x43x15’’) and was designed primarily for commercial use in hotel lobbies or other large scale public spaces. The Nocturne promises to be a signature piece among Philbrook’s emerging design collection.

Mr. Kravis and his family have a long history of generosity with Philbrook. In addition to ongoing program support in numerous areas from the Raymond and Bessie Kravis Foundation, Mr. Kravis has donated more than twenty works – primarily contemporary art – to the Museum.

This is the second major acquisition announcement in as many years for Philbrook. Last year the Museum announced that it had received the Adkins Collection of Native American and Southwestern Art – some 1700 objects. Plans are currently being developed for the Eugene B. Adkins Collection & Study Center, a 15,000 sq. ft. satellite facility in downtown Tulsa.

Philbrook is the premier cultural institution in the city of Tulsa and a state-wide leader in the cultural life of Oklahoma. Set within a twenty-three acre site three miles from downtown Tulsa, Philbrook is a unique combination of historic house, major gardens, and permanent collections.

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