On September 6, 2013, Vitra announced it acquired Artek. The Finnish furniture company was established in 1935 by architect Alvar Aalto, his wife Aino, Maire Gullichsen, and historian Nils-Gustav Hahl to produce furniture that promoted modern living. Over the company’s last 80 years, it has expanded its business to include rights to Ilmari Tapiovaara’s furniture collection and collaborations with renowned designers and artists such as Shigeru Ban, Eero Aarnio, and Enzo Mari.
Artek will continue operations as a separate entity but it is anticipated the purchase will expand the furniture company’s reach further beyond Finland, where contract and residential domestic sales account for 60 percent of its business. “The international dimension, which was a clear goal already in Artek’s founding manifesto of 1935, needed to be revitalized,” said Artek’s CEO Mirkku Kullberg in a statement. “That arena is where we want to be and alliances or ownership arrangements are one way of building the future.”
As synergies between the two companies are explored, Vitra will support Artek’s ongoing production of Aalto’s iconic lighting and furniture designs. “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,” said Rolf Fehlbaum, a member of Vitra’s Board of Directors, in a statement. “For Vitra it is important that Artek can continue and further develop this role.” Vitra endeavors like the Vitra Design Museum, workshops, publications, and special collections and archives could be influential outlets for collaboration between the companies.
For the last 20 years, Artek has been owned by Proventus, a privately held European capital development firm. Currently owned by Robert Weil, the company was established in Stockholm in 1969. Over the last 40 years, the investment firm has concentrated on the business of cultural institutions such as the Jewish Theatre in Stockholm, the Israeli Batsheva Dance Company, and Culture without Borders.