The Kravis Collection is distinctive in its focus on industrial design and remarkable in its range and depth. It encompasses the period from 1900 to the present and is international in scope. As a collector, George is interested in an object’s function, form, manufacture, and materials while also considering the user and the design process. The collection has certain strengths reflecting George’s personal interests. Collection highlights include Wells Coates’s Ekco radio (1932); Alberto Meda’s high-tech Light Light chair (c. 1987) made from materials used in aeronautics; Masanori Umeda’s Ginza cabinet (1982), whose shape references Japanese popular culture; and Mathias Bengtsson’s Slice armchair (1999), comprising 388 sheets of laser-cut three-millimeter plywood glued together. In 2013, George established the Kravis Design Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to house the 3,000 objects in his design collection and to further his educational mission.
Fine Arts Collection
Since he first began to seriously collect art in the 1970s, George Kravis has assembled an impressive collection of twentieth-century paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints, graphics, photography, and video. George learned about art by visiting museums and through his friendships with such artists as Paul Jenkins, but he never followed fashion: he was steadfast in his passion for art rather than status, acquiring works that provided aesthetic pleasure. The collection is particularly strong in works of the 1970s and ’80s and embraces a broad range of styles. It includes some of the most important artists of the twentieth century, such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Barbara Hepworth. The collection also reflects George’s interest in exceptional local talent, such as Tulsa artist Otto Duecker, who has created realistic life-size cut-out paintings of figures and clothing. The Kravis Collection also includes George Rickey’s abstract, precision, kinetic sculptures and Marilyn Levine’s leather bag and belt made out of clay.
Museum Loans and Gifts
In 2012, George lent 20 objects to the Indianapolis Museum of Art as a centerpiece of their decorative arts installation. In 2013, an additional 34 objects were lent to launch the museum’s new installation of Design Since 1980, the largest permanent museum gallery of design in the United States. This second loan included 11 historically significant Apple products, a selection made by the museum’s Curator of Architecture and Design, R. Craig Miller.
The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, borrowed 46 objects from the Kravis Collection for their Jazz Age exhibition, to be presented in New York from April to August 2017, then at the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris.
The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, also received gifts from the Kravis Collection to be the focus of a special exhibition on the museum’s second floor, Energizing the Everyday: Gifts from the George R. Kravis II Collection, on view from April 2016 through March 2017.
Five objects from the Kravis Collection are on loan to the Stewart Program for Modern Design for the exhibition Partners in Design: Alfred H. Barr Jr. and Philip Johnson, which opened April 18, 2016, at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts before traveling to the Davis Museum at Wellesley College and the Grey Art Gallery of New York University. The exhibition catalogue illustrating all the Kravis loans was released October 2015.
Two Ekco radios that George gave to MoMA were included in the museum’s exhibition Making Music Modern: Design for Ear and Eye, which was on view through January 2016.