SC Johnson and the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation entered into a long-term loan agreement on July 14, allowing the company to display artifacts highlighting Wright’s impact on families and the home. The agreement is an exciting addition to the wealth of Frank Lloyd Wright-related sites around Chicago, but raises questions about Wright’s place in popular conceptions of architectural history.
A forthcoming exhibit, building on SC Johnson’s long relationship with the architect, will be located in the company’s Wright-designed Racine, WI headquarters and include personal artifacts from Wright and objects designed for clients. Notable items include chairs from Wright’s homes in Oak Park, Spring Green, and Scottsdale, as well as pieces from Wright’s Plaza Hotel suite, displayed for the first time in history.The exhibit is a welcome and worthwhile addition to the SC Johnson headquarters, also known as the “Johnson Wax Building,” which is located midway between Wright’s studio in Oak Park and Taliesin complex in Spring Green and attracts over 5,000 Wright-enthusiasts per year. It will be interesting to see whether SC Johnson–popular for it’s “Family Company” branding strategy–chooses to incorporate details about Wright’s less-than-family-friendly personal life, including his rumored bi-sexuality and relationship with Louis Sullivan, his relationship with Mamah Bothwick Cheney, for whom he abandoned his wife and six children in 1911, and his 1926 arrest for violation of human trafficking laws in Minnetonka, Minnesota (the charges, stemming from to a custody dispute over the daughter of his third wife, were later dropped). I would hate to see Wright reconfigured into a squeaky-clean talisman of “Family” values, but given SC Johnson’s political leanings, “Family Company” branding strategy, and the current political climate in Wisconsin, it’s a likely prospect. For more on the agreement, follow this link.