Niko Kralj included in MoMA Permanent Collection

If you don’t know who designer Niko Kralj is, you can be forgiven. Not many people outside of Kralj’s homeland of Slovenia are familiar with his highly progressive and award-winning modern furniture designs.

Thankfully, change is on the horizon. MoMA’s highly acclaimed exhibition “Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980” and the inclusion of the 1957 designed ‘Rex Lounge Chair’ in MoMA’s permanent collection should give Kralj more of the international recognition he deserves.

 MoMA features Rex Krajl design icons - Rex Lounge Chair, Rex Bench, Shell Chair and 4455 Chair

MoMA features Rex Krajl design icons - Rex Lounge Chair, Rex Bench, Shell Chair and 4455 Chair

 

The show’s curators, MoMA’s Martino Stierli and guest curator Vladimir Kulić, assert that this exhibition is a survey of architecture and design that has been all but absent from modern history. They also make clear that Yugoslavia was expelled from the Soviet bloc in 1948, removing it from Stalin’s grip on spatial aesthetics.

The country had a need to search for its collective identity elsewhere. As Vladimir Kulić states, the architecture from Yugoslav socialism is an adaptation rather than copy, giving the work a quality of enhanced interpretation. This can also be said of Niko Kralj’s ground-breaking mid-century industrial designs.

By merging a variety of local traditions and contemporary international influences in the context of a unique Yugoslav brand of socialism, often described as the “Third Way,” local architects and designers produced a veritable “parallel universe” of modern design during the 45 years of the country’s existence.

 

 Monument to the Ilinden Uprising, 1970-73, by Iskra and Jordan Grabul. Photo: Valentin Jeck

Monument to the Ilinden Uprising, 1970-73, by Iskra and Jordan Grabul. Photo: Valentin Jeck

 
Niko Kralj is undoubtedly the founder and one of the central figures of Slovenian post-war industrial design. As an internationally recognized design expert in the second half of the 20th century he sits alongside the most important industrial designers in the world.
— Rex Kralj | Slovenia
 Monument to the Uprising of the People of Kordun and Banija. 1979–81. Petrova Gora. Photo: Valentin Jeck

Monument to the Uprising of the People of Kordun and Banija. 1979–81. Petrova Gora. Photo: Valentin Jeck

 
MoMA Toward a Concrete Utopia.jpg
 

If you’re visiting New York don’t miss this must-see exhibition. The works will include more than 400 drawings, models, photographs, and film reels culled from an array of municipal archives, family-held collections, and museums across the region, introducing the awesome structures of socialist Yugoslavia’s leading architects to an international audience for the first time.

 
 Yugoslav Pavilion at Expo 58. 1958. Brussels, Belgium. Photo: MoMA

Yugoslav Pavilion at Expo 58. 1958. Brussels, Belgium. Photo: MoMA

 
 Architect Janko Konstantinov illustrates a visionary modernist project

Architect Janko Konstantinov illustrates a visionary modernist project

Dan Eagle