Brazilian Modernist Lina Bo Bardi Gets Her Due in a New Exhibition

Brazilian Modernist Lina Bo Bardi Gets Her Due in a New Exhibition

By Luke Hopping
Coinciding with the centennial of her birth, an exhibition dedicated to the egalitarian designs of midcentury modernist Lina Bo Bardi arrives at the Graham Foundation in Chicago. Sponsored by Italian furniture design company Arper, Lina Bo Bardi: Together heralds the legacy of her tragically neglected career.

An unmistakable presence in Brazilian postwar design, Lina Bo Bardi's work was not widely-recognized in her lifetime. Her first major exhibition came in 1989, just three years before her death. Yet in the past year, she's been the subject of gallery and museum shows in New York, Toronto, and across Europe. In 2015, the Italian-born architect and designer behind such masterpieces of Brazilian modernism as the Glass House in São Paulo and the Bowl chair is at last having her moment.

Born in Rome in 1914, Lina Bo Bardi emigrated to Brazil in 1946.

Lina Bo Bardi: Together, which opened in London last year and arrived at the Graham Foundation in Chicago over the weekend, is as much an exploration of her work as a document of how people interact with it. Bo Bardi, who emigrated to Brazil with her husband Pietro Maria Bardi amid the political upheaval of postwar Italy, was fascinated by what architecture could do for humanity. "Until a man enters a building, climbs steps, and takes possession of the space in a 'human adventure,'" she said, "architecture does not exist."

Using slightly updated processes, the Italian furniture design company Arper produced a limited edition run of 500 Bowl chairs to support the Instituto Lina Bo e P.M. Bardi in São Paulo and help finance the exhibition tour.

Curated by Argentine architect Noemi Blager, the latest exhibition captures Bo Bardi's generous spirit through multiple mediums. Video projections by Finnish filmmaker Tapio Snellman portray Bo Bardi's SESC Pompéia recreational center as a life-giving oasis for the residents of bustling São Paulo. A collection of craft objects by artist Madelon Vriesendorp provides a window into the vibrant culture in which Bo Bardi was immersed. The exhibition also includes her iconic Bowl chairs, which Arper produced a limited run of to help finance the tour.

In 1953, the American magazine Interiors praised Bo Bardi's Bowl chair by comparing it to the work of Eero Saarinen and Irene Schawinsky.

Lina Bo Bardi: Together is on display at the Graham Foundation now until July 25. 

For Lina Bo Bardi: Together, artist Madelon Vriesendorp collaborated with Bahia residents, children, and craftspeople to create authentic folk objects.


Vriesendorp also crafted a series of paper hands, a reference to Bo Bardi's habit of drawing attention to important details in her notes.

The exhibition features video projections of Bo Bardi's beloved SESC Pompéia by filmmaker Tapio Snellman.

Bo Bardi reclines in her world famous Bowl chair.


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