Maire Gullichsen

Maire Gullichsen (1907 – 1990)

Professor Maire Gullichsen (née Ahlström) accomplished a magnificent life’s work in promoting the Finnish visual arts, design art and architecture. She was the visionary, the catalyst and the central force behind the design art shop Artek, the Free Art School, the Modern Arts Association and the Galerie Artek. All these four organisations contributed to the breakthrough of Modernism in Finland.

The design art shop Artek was established in 1935 by Maire Gullichsen in cooperation with Aino and Alvar Aalto to sell furniture designed by Alvar Aalto. The underlying idea was to combine art with technology and science. Accordingly, art exhibitions were also held at the premises of Artek. The Free Art School was also founded in 1935. This school of modern art drew from international influences. Maire Gullichsen was a cofounder of this school, and she also studied there.

In cooperation with Maire and Harry Gullichsen, Aino and Alvar Aalto were able to create some real gems of modern Finnish architecture and design art, which are among the best known in Finland. They include Villa Mairea (built in 1939), the Gullichsens’ residence in Noormarkku, which was also used as their reception rooms, the industrial premises and the residential buildings of Ahlström Ltd in Sunila, Varkaus and Kauttua, the Savoy vase and other glass articles, some of which are still in production.

The Modern Arts Association came into being in 1939; as a representative of this association, Maire Gullichsen took part in organising exhibitions of contemporary art in Helsinki. Some of the art exhibitions which contributed most to the breakthrough of abstract art and especially Constructivism were the Klar Form exhibition, held in 1952, and the exhibitions held in Galerie Artek, founded in 1950.

From the 1960s onwards, Maire Gullichsen was actively involved in the efforts to establish a museum of modern art in Pori. The Pori Art Museum was founded in 1981 and took over the Finnish art collections of an art foundation named after Maire Gullichsen. The same year, Maire Gullichsen was conferred the degree of professor.