Anders Ruhwald: A Site-Sensitive Installation in Saarinen House

Exhibition Dates: May 1, 2013 to October 31, 2013

For his first solo exhibition in Michigan, Danish ceramist Anders Ruhwald presented a series of “site-sensitive” installations in Saarinen House, the “total work of art” designed by the Finnish American architect Eliel Saarinen in 1930.  Saarinen House, which the Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research operates as an historic house museum, provided the ideal backdrop for Ruhwald’s continued investigations into the nature of Modernism—specifically Scandinavian Modernism—and served to heighten the dialogue that his work promotes within the overlapping fields of art, craft, and design.  At the time, Ruhwald served as an Artist-in-Residence and was Head of the Ceramics Department at Cranbrook Academy of Art.

Anders Ruhwald in Saarinen House

Although Ruhwald had presented other site-sensitive installations in Europe, his interventions into the domestic spaces of Saarinen House, from the iconic dining room to the private rear courtyard, allowed the artist to explore more fully Modernism’s construction of the everyday, and what happens to that ideal when it is frozen in time in the fictive environment of a house museum. The exhibition was not only was accessible through Center’s campus tour program, which necessarily means the experience was mediated by a Center or an Art Museum staff member or a volunteer docent—further underlining the tension between the reconstructed historic environment and Ruhwald’s intervention. The installation also explored the interpersonal relationships of the Saarinen family, including the father-son dynamic of Eliel and Eero and the link between the two provided by the work of Alvar Aalto. 

The exhibition was curated by Gregory Wittkopp and organized as a collaboration between Cranbrook Art Museum and the Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research and was sponsored by Jeanne and Ralph Graham.  A full-color, cloth-bound (hard cover), 80-page catalogue accompanied and documented the exhibition.

The following information on the catalog’s authors was based on their affiliations and accomplishments at the time the exhibition opened in April 2013:

Claudine Isé is a freelance writer and critic based in Chicago.  She is a regular contributor to the Chicago Tribune and has written frequently for, Chicago magazine, and  Claudine currently is an instructor in the Art History Department of the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she teaches graduate students in the Museum and Exhibition Studies program.

She holds a PhD in Film, Literature, and Culture from the University of Southern California and has worked as a curator at both the UCLA Hammer Museum in California and the Wexner Center for the Arts in Ohio.

Love Jönsson is a curator at the Röhsska Museum for Fashion, Design and Decorative Arts in Gothenburg, Sweden. He has published widely on contemporary crafts in international catalogues, books and periodicals, including Journal of Modern Craft, Ceramic Review and American Ceramics, and is a member of the board of Paletten, Sweden’s longest-running art magazine. From 2005 to 2011he was a visiting lecturer at HDK – School of Crafts and Design at the University of Gothenburg. Jönsson’s essay examines Ruhwald’s work from the perspective of “craft.”

Ásdís Ólafsdóttir, PhD., is an Icelandic art historian living in Paris, where she works as a curator, author, and lecturer. Her field of specialization covers the history of design in the twentieth century and that of Alvar Aalto in particular. She is director of Maison Louis Carré by Alvar Aalto close to Paris as well as of ARTnord magazine.  Ólafsdóttir’s essay examines Ruhwald’s work from the perspective of “design.”

Anders Ruhwald in Saarinen House

Gregory Wittkopp is the Director of Cranbrook Art Museum and the new Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research.  He holds a B.S. in Architecture from the College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan and an M.A. in Art History from Wayne State University.  In his former position as Curator of Collections at Cranbrook, he was responsible for researching and directing the restoration of Saarinen House.  His publications include the award-winning book Saarinen House and Garden: A Total Work of Art (Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1995).

Hensleigh, R.H and Thayer, Tim. For Leisure and Pleasure. 2012. Anders Ruhwald, Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills.
Hensleigh, R.H. and Thayer, Tim. Lamp (Gottlieb's Gaze). 2011. Anders Ruhwald, Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills.
Hensleigh, R.H. and Thayer, Tim. The School of the Flower. 2012. Anders Ruhwald, Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills.