Annmaris and PIASA Offer Curated Auction of Finnish Furniture Design

Liz Catalano
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At the end of World War II, Finland’s landscape was devastated. Retreating German armies left behind great swaths of scorched land, and various peace agreements forced the Finnish government to cede territory. The rural Finnish population fled their homes and flocked to the inner cities. 

This rapid migration proved to be a turning point for Finnish furniture design. Brands soon realized that the new city dwellers lacked both the money and space for traditional furniture items. Sleek, lightweight, and low-cost designs flooded the stores. Today, Nordic minimalism has a global market. Finnish auction house Annmaris will partner with Paris-based auction house PIASA to showcase the best of Finnish furniture design. The houses will offer a live auction on September 15th, 2021 at 11:00 AM EDT. Learn more about Finland’s top interior designers before placing a bid.

Alvar Aalto, pair of “Beehive” pendant lights, 1953. Image from Annmaris Auctions/PIASA.
Alvar Aalto, pair of “Beehive” pendant lights, 1953. Image from Annmaris Auctions/PIASA.

Alvar Aalto

Even before World War II prompted a design revolution in Finland, Alvar Aalto found himself leading the rising tide of modernism. The architect and designer started exploring Nordic Classicism in the 1920s. He increasingly embraced modernism after it spread through Western and Southern Europe. Aalto favored a balance of functionality and aesthetics that eventually came to define Finnish furniture design. Birch wood often appeared in his pieces due to its low cost and prevalence in Finland. Aalto’s success at various international exhibitions encouraged other Finnish designers to follow in his footsteps. 

The upcoming Annmaris and PIASA auction will particularly highlight Alvar Aalto’s work. Among the top lots is a pair of pendant lights from Aalto’s popular “Beehive” series (lot #57; estimate: EUR 18,000 –  €25,000 / USD 21,300 – $29,600). Originally designed for the University of Jyväskylä, this series uses stacked steel rings to diffuse warm light. Other available Aalto lots include a set of eight laminated birch chairs, assorted table lamps, and sets of Aalto’s iconic Model 60 stacking stools.

Paavo Tynell, pair of brass and glass chandeliers, c. late 1940s. Image from Annmaris/PIASA.
Paavo Tynell, pair of brass and glass chandeliers, c. late 1940s. Image from Annmaris/PIASA.

Paavo Tynell

Paavo Tynell, also known as “the man who illuminated Finland,” helped industrialize Finnish furniture design and make it available to the population at large. Tynell specialized in lighting design and metalwork. He rose to fame in the 1930s and 40s for modern lamps inspired by geometric modernism and natural motifs. While Alvar Aalto was one of the first Finnish interior designers to receive global attention, Tynell’s efforts spread Aalto’s work far beyond Finland’s borders. Tynell’s company produced the lighting fixtures for Aalto’s major projects. The two designers joined forces to dominate the lighting industry in Finland throughout the 20th century. 

The upcoming sale highlights a broad selection of pendant lights, lamps, and wall fixtures designed by Paavo Tynell. Several items feature Tynell’s favored flora and fauna motifs. Lot #12 is a Tynell brass and glass wall light from 1950 (estimate: EUR 80,000 – €120,000 / USD 94,700 – $142,100). The piece resembles a clump of tulips with delicate leaf and coiled flower details. Bidders can also consider a dramatic pair of chandeliers designed for upscale restaurant Voudin Kellari (lot #173; estimate: EUR 40,000 – €60,000 / USD 47,370 – $71,050).

Märta Blomstedt, pair of birch and fabric Aulanko armchairs, c. 1940. Image from Annmaris/PIASA.
Märta Blomstedt, pair of birch and fabric Aulanko armchairs, c. 1940. Image from Annmaris/PIASA.

Märta Blomstedt

As Finnish furniture designers moved closer to modernism in the early 20th century, many sought a balance between beauty and practicality. In contrast, Märta Blomstedt believed in functionality above all else. She was a leading architect who attended to every detail of her buildings. Blomstedt filled her industrial-style hotels, churches, and banks with clean, simple furnishings. 

One of Blomstedt’s most iconic designs was a series of wing chairs created around 1939 for the Hotel Aulanko in Hämeenlinna. Four wood spheres support these fabric-covered plush chairs. Compared to other Finnish furniture designs, these chairs are noticeably stocky and inviting. Annmaris and PIASA will offer a pair of Blomstedt’s Aulanko armchairs this September with an estimate of EUR 30,000 to €40,000 (USD 35,500 – $47,370).

Tapio Wirkkala, “Iceberg” crystal bowl, 1955. Image from Annmaris/PIASA.
Tapio Wirkkala, “Iceberg” crystal bowl, 1955. Image from Annmaris/PIASA.

Tapio Wirkkala

Post-war Finnish artist and designer Tapio Wirkkala never committed to one particular medium. During his decades-long career, Wirkkala dabbled in city planning, sculpting, woodworking, and fine art. He even designed various products for household use, including ketchup and vodka bottles. Glass was the one constant in Wirkkala’s career. He always circled back to glassware design, from table settings to Chihuly-style vases.  

A selection of Wirkkala household items from across his oeuvre will come to auction this September. Collectors can consider an engraved crystal sculpture of a woman (lot #39; estimate: EUR 25,000 – €35,000 / USD 29,600 – $41,450) and an “Iceberg” crystal bowl from 1955 (lot #150; estimate: EUR 12,000 – €18,000 / USD 14,200 – $21,300). 

Annmaris and PIASA will present over 250 pieces of furniture, lighting, and decorative art in the upcoming Finnish Design sale. Bidding will begin at 11:00 AM EDT on September 15th, 2021. View the full listings on LiveAuctioneers.

Interested in purchasing furniture items at auction? Before placing a bid, check out Auction Daily’s furniture auction buying and selling guide.

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James Ardis
James Ardis
Senior Writer and Editor

James Ardis is a writer, editor, and content strategist focused on the auction industry. His company, James Ardis Writing, has partnered with auction houses, galleries, and many clients outside the art world.

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