“Explore the work of designer and artist Josef Frank (1885-1967) in the first-ever UK exhibition of his textiles. The Austrian-born architect moved to Sweden in 1933, where he developed his colourful brand of modernism, working with Estrid Ericson on furniture, glassware, lighting and interior design ideas. Together they redefined what is regarded as Swedish Modern. This exhibition in association with Millesgården, Stockholm highlights Frank’s vibrant fabric designs for Svenskt Tenn alongside a number of his previously unknown watercolours.”
I didn’t realise that the Fashion and Textile Museum only holds temporary exhibitions, I went to the museum quite blindly, expecting the stereotypical image of ‘fashion museum’ with mannequins scattered with 1920’s flapper dresses. However, between the 28th January to 7th May, the Fashion and Textile Museum has hosted the Joseph Frank: Patterns, Furniture and Painting exhibition, in association with Millesgården museum, celebrating the architect, artist, and designer. Curated by Dennis Nothdruft, the exhibition is the first ever dedicated to Franks work, and explores Josef Frank’s works within his social and religious background. Josef Frank was born an Austrian Jew, and fled to Stockholm with his Swedish wife in 1933, to escape growing Nazism. Beautifully and poignantly, the vibrancy of Franks style is in a direct opposite to his contemporary fears in the political and social climate, of course felt most heavily within his Jewish faith and heritage.
What struck me most about the exhibition was the accessibility. While I appreciate the beauty of the work, I went in with no prior knowledge of Frank’s work. By the time I’d left, I adored it. Throughout the exhibition were sofas, armchairs and seats all made in the fabric that the exhibition was there to celebrate. The textiles are displayed as both a grand and authoritative persona when displayed on the walls, while at the same time as accessible, physical and functional as part of the visitor experience. Viewing textiles, in a paid museum, can be an intimidating experience. I could’ve felt out of my depth. But, the curation by Dennis Nothdruft and the Fashion and Textile Museum make the visitor experience comfortable. While simple, the physical act of sitting on a comfortable chair, in my opinion, is not to be underestimated.
Not just textiles, the exhibition also displays Franks not often seen watercolours. As a man of many talents, he created, combining his love for art and architecture, with charming results. His ‘fantasy houses’ are the most impressive. Designed without the intention on ever being built, Frank’s thirteen fantasy houses took shape during 1947, inspired by modern architecture, often built with friends in mind who could live in them. This escapism into his fantasy estate, for me, summed up the exhibition, a story of Frank’s innovative and eccentric design in an era of political turmoil. The Josef Frank Patterns-Furniture-Painting three month exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum is an insight into Josef Frank’s take on modernist design, his growing understanding and processing of the horror in Jewish 1930’s Europe, and his beautiful botanical designs are one of a kind to see.