Vitra has acquired Artek – a renowned Finnish furniture company, which was founded in 1935 by architect Alvar Aalto and his wife Aino, art promoter Maire Gullichsen and art historian Nils-Gustav Hahl. The firm was built on the radical business plan to “sell furniture and to promote a modern culture of habitation by exhibitions and other educational means”.
Rolf Fehlbaum, a member of Vitra’s board of directors, says: “Vitra has held Aalto and Artek in high regard for decades. The Finnish design company is more than a collection of furniture – like Vitra, it is a commercial-cultural project which plays an avant-garde role in its sector. For Vitra it is important that Artek can continue and further develop this role.”
While Artek will continue as a separate entity, synergies between different operations – which primarily relate to manufacturing, distribution and logistics – will be explored.
Mirkku Kullberg, Artek’s CEO, says: “The international dimension, which was a clear goal already in Artek’s founding manifesto of 1935, needed to be revitalized. That arena is where we want to be, and alliances or ownership arrangements are one way of building the future. In our judgment, having an owner from the industry was the best choice for Artek.
“This is a great opportunity for the Finnish design industry and a major move for Artek, lifting the company to the next stage.”
The core of the Artek product range consists of Alvar Aalto’s furniture and lighting designs. Under its new portfolio strategy, Artek is extending the range and has acquired the rights to Ilmari Tapiovaara’s furniture collection.
In parallel, Artek also continues to work in close collaboration with prominent international architects, designers and artists, such as Eero Aarnio, Shigeru Ban, Naoto Fukasawa, Harri Koskinen, Juha LeiviskaÌ, Enzo Mari and Tobias Rehberger.
In the spirit of its radical founders, Artek remains in the vanguard as it searches for new paths within and between the disciplines of design, architecture and art. “There is definitely a comeback of Nordic design and there is a renewed appreciation of Aalto’s work,” Rolf says. “Tapiovaara of course is much less known internationally, and it is high time that he be discovered.”
The partnership between Vitra and Artek is based on shared values. Proventus CEO Daniel Sachs, former owner of Artek, explains the decision of the transaction: “Vitra has the ideal corporate culture, know-how and industrial resources to take Artek to the next level.”