Collector and philanthropist George R. Kravis II has established the Kravis Design Institute to further his educational mission in the field of the design arts by making his collection available to the public. As part of this initiative, which includes exhibitions, publications and educational programs, Kravis has recently made gifts of major designs to the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum and The Museum of Modern Art.
George Kravis II
The Kravis Collection includes more than 3,000 objects chosen for aesthetic quality, reflecting the tastes of the decades between 1900 and the present. The collection is one of the major assemblages of international industrial design in North America, holding works created by important figures in the history of design, from Peter Behrens at the turn-of-the-20th century to Yves Behar at the turn of the 21st.
Among the Kravis gifts to museums is an armchair designed by Alexander Girard in 1968 for Braniff Airlines, with original upholstery fabric by the designer, donated to the Cooper-Hewitt Museum. Girard, known for his interiors and textiles, was the design director for Herman Miller’s textile division. Kravis has donated design objects to The Museum of Modern Art as well, including the 1943 Silver Streak iron made of Pyrex glass.
As part of its national outreach, the Kravis Design Institute has recently collaborated with the Indianapolis Museum of Art on two projects. A selection of fourteen objects from the Kravis Collection was lent to IMA in 2011 to create a powerful display in the museum’s pre–World War II galleries. Loans of art deco and modern industrial design created a dramatic counterpoint to the museum’s decorative arts collection.
“It is always very exciting for the design field when a major collector emerges,” said R. Craig Miller, former curator of modern design at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. “In a little over five years, George Kravis has formed an extraordinary industrial design collection in terms of range, depth, and quality—one of international significance.”
For the new installation of the IMA’s Contemporary Design Galleries, which opened in November, Kravis has lent two important chairs by the Japanese designer Shiro Kuramata—the nickel-plated Sing Sing Sing armchair of 1985 and the Glass chair of 1976. A collection of 11 historic and present-day Apple products collected by Kravis has also been lent to the museum’s display.
Kravis has also lent objects to the Museum of the City of New York for their exhibition Norman Bel Geddes: I Have Seen the Future. It includes the 1937 Manhattan cocktail set, a group of three c. 1938 Soda King soda siphons, and the 1940 Patriot radio.
“It is through such significant collaborations that George Kravis has become a major player in the modern design field,” said Miller.