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TO SEPT. 12

It’s easy these days to think that before IKEA there existed nothing but a dank void in which bulky household items lacking cute names pined sullenly, unable to conceive of harmony with their fellow objects. Actually, there was Ellen Key. In 1899, the Swedish feminist and social reformer issued a manifesto, Beauty for All, in which she called for the creation of attractive, affordable, industrially produced household objects. The National Museum of Women in the Arts’ “Nordic Cool: Hot Women Designers” draws a fine line between Key and IKEA. The many delightful works from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland on display include a perforated curtain that plays tricks with light; the world’s first robotic vacuum cleaner, shaped after the prehistoric trilobites that cleaned the bottom of the ocean; plans for the first car created, designed, and developed by women; Jupiter’s Bride Illumination Wedding Dress, made of wool felt, optical cables, and light-emitting diodes; and SWAY, a stool with a curved base that allows antsy children to rock back and forth easily. The show’s curators play up on the humor inherent in many of the pieces (Sigrid Eckhoff’s Cherrox Monster Boot is pictured), but the issue of why this aesthetic revolution went hand-in-hand with the rise of feminism in the Nordic countries is less than fully explored. Ultimately, though, as Björk would say, the accidents that happen follow the dot, and zeitgeist is distilled into function. Discover even more reasons to move to Scandinavia from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and from noon to 5 p.m. Sundays, to Sunday, Sept. 12, at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, 1250 New York Ave. NW. $8. (202) 783-5000. (Bidisha Banerjee)