SC Johnson to Exhibit Frank Lloyd Wright Wright Artifacts

Johnson Wax Headquarters (exterior), Racine, Wisconsin. Photo by Jack E. Boucher, National Park Service, 1969.

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 ’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.
Cite: Jacobson, Samuel. "SC Johnson to Exhibit Frank Lloyd Wright Wright Artifacts" 11 Aug 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 28 May 2015. <>
  • Luis

    The focus of the exhibit is about artifacts for the home designed by Wright, and I don’t really understand the linkage between this and the events of his personal life, as stated by the writer of this article.

    • James

      I think it’s called investigative journalism.

      I realize corporate news doesn’t do much of it anymore (they use the phrase “some say” instead of knowing what they’re talking about), so many people may not be familiar with it.

      If you watch the old interviews with Mike Wallace and FLW, much of it is about social and political issues.

      Unfortunately that now seems strange to people.

  • aaronaaardvark

    Nonetheless, unless these objets trouves somehow
    have compelling “slanted” descriptions attached, such an exhibition is still to the good.

    Typically with architects, the ubiquity of their work in a region generally leads to a corresponding shallowness in regional public perception. Like the eye of a hurricane.

    Of course the exhibit stuff will appear as branded. The entire original building was/is a brand. That’s what the client wanted………. Go visit!