Santa Claus, Coca-Cola, and Swedish design at the American Swedish Institute
Coca-Cola's iconic Santa images are such a staple during the holidays that it's easy to forget that someone actually had to create them in the first place. It's an advertising feat: A wild success that has endured holiday season after holiday season for 79 years. But these pieces are also works of art, designed to create a warm feelings during the cold months that focus on friends and family.
Minneapolis's American Swedish Institute explores this aspect of the Coca-Cola Santa in their latest exhibit, "Santa Claus, Coca-Cola, and Swedish Design."
After seeing the Coca-Cola Santa on billboards and glossy ads, it's kind of amazing to think the original oil paintings, by Nordic-American illustrator Haddon Sundblom, still exist. But they most certainly do, and the Coca-Cola Archives in Atlanta has lent the American Swedish Institute more than a dozen of Sundblom's works. The colors are extra vibrant as they were painted in print-ready hues.
In addition to the original paintings, the American Swedish Institute invited guest curator Dick McChesney of the Minnesota Coca-Cola Collectors' Club to help assemble items that also show Sundblom's work, with particular focus on Christmas in Minnesota. Artifacts in this exhibit have been selected to highlight the nostalgia, but also the marketing genius of Sundblom's images.
Santa Claus, Coca-Cola, and Swedish Design will be on display through January 16 at the American Swedish Institute, 2600 Park Avenue in Minneapolis. The museum is open on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from noon to 4 p.m., Wednesday from noon to 8 p.m., Sunday from 1-5 p.m. Special December-only hours also include Mondays from 12-4 p.m. The museum is closed Christmas eve and day. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 ages 62 and above, $4 ages 6-18 and full-time students with I.D. Children under six are admitted free with an adult.
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