Minka Podhájská (Czechoslovak, born Moravia [now Czech Republic], 1881-1963). Series of Personifications of Childhood Misdeeds. 1930. Painted wood, dimensions vary, largest: 13 cm tall. Museum of Decorative Arts, Prague.

Hans Brockhage (German, 1925-2009). Schaukelwagon (Rocking car). 1950. Beech frame and birch plywood seat, 40 x 100 x 38 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Architecture and Design Purchase Fund.

Designing for the Child in a Century of World War and Nuclear Threat

Lucienne Bloch (American, b. Switzerland, 1909-1999). The Cycle of a Woman’s Life study for a mural commissioned by Federal Art Project, Works Progress Administration, New York City, for the House of Detention for Women, Greenwich Village. 1935. Water and pencil on board, 29.8 x 43.8 c,. The Wolfsonian-Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection.

Ford convertible toy car with original box. c. 1956. Tinplate and various materials, car: 9.8 x 13 x 33.7 cm. Manufactured by Marusan Shoten Ltd., Tokyo (est. 1947). Subaru 360 toy car with original box. c. 1963. Tinplate, car: 8.6 x 8.6 x 20 cm. Manufactured by Bandai, Tokyo (est. 1950). Bruce Sterling Collection, New York.

Old?ich Lipský (Czechoslovak, 1924-1986). 'Children in the Museum of the Twentieth Century,' still from the film Muž z prvního století (Man from the first century). 1962. 35 mm (black-and-white, sound). 96 minutes. Národní Filmovy Archiv, Prague

Jens S. Jensen (Swedish, born 1946). Boy on the Wall, Hammarkullen, Gothenburg. 1973. Photograph of Michael, age 9. Gelatin silver print, 24 x 29.8 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Jens S. Jensen, 2012.

Teaching materials commissioned by Maria Montessori. 1920s. Wood, dimensions vary. Manufactured by Baroni e Marangon, Gonzaga, Italy (est. 1911). Collection of Maurizio Marzadori , Bologna.

Elizawieta Ignatowitsch (USSR, 1903-1983). The Fight for the Polytechnic Schools is the Fight for the Five-Year Plan, and for a Communist Education of the body politic. 1931. Letterpress, lithograph, 51.4 x 71.8 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Miss Jessie Rosenfeld.

Ladislav Sutnar (American, born Bohemia [now Czech Republic]). 1897-1976). Prototype for Build the Town Building Blocks. 1940-43. Painted wood, large block: 4.4 x 7 x 7 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Ctislav Sutnar and Radoslav Sutnar.

Gerrit Rietveld (Dutch, 1888–1964). Child’s wheelbarrow. 1923 (manufactured 1958). Painted wood, 31.8 x 28.9 x 85.1 cm. Manufactured by Gerard van de Groenekan. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder. © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / Beeldrecht, Amsterdam

Mariska Undi (Hungarian, 18771959). Design for children’s room. 1903. Lithograph, 29.5 x 41.3 cm. Published by the Hungarian Ministry of Culture

Ben Shahn (American, born Lithuania. 1898-1969). Liberation. 1945. Gouache on board, 75.6 x 101.4 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. James Thrall Soby Bequest. in Mintalapok (1903), New folio 1 (IX), no. 1, sheet 2. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase.

Graf Zeppelin toy dirigible. c. 1930. Iron alloy, aluminum, enamel paint, and decals, 18.4 x 63.5 cm. Manufacture attributed to J.C. Penney Co., Inc., Plano, Texas. Minneapolis Institute of Arts. The Modernism Collection, gift of Norwest Bank Minnesota.

Jean Prouvé (French, 1901-1984). School Desk. 1946. Enameled steel and oak, 72.4 x 114.3 x 86.4 cm. Manufactured by Ateliers Jean Prouvé, Nancy, France. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Dorothy Cullman Purchase Fund.

Joaquín Torres-García (Uruguayan, 1874-1949). Three Figures. c. 1925. Painted wood, twelve interchangeable pieces, dimensions vary. Private collection, New York. © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VEGAP, Spain.

John Rideout (American, 1898-1951) and Harold Van Doren (American, 1895-1957). Skippy-Racer scooter. c. 1933. Steel, paint, wood, rubber, 31 3/4 x 43 3/16 x 6 1/2 in. (80.65 x 109.7 x 16.51 cm). Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Gift of funds from Don and Diana Lee Lucker.

Renate Müller (German, born 1945). Indoor Play Area. 1985. Jute, leather, wood, play area: 7.6 x 20.3 x 12.7 cm, largest puppet: 12″ (30.5 cm). Collection of Zesty Meyers and Evan Snyderman / R 20th Century.

Detail from Stahlromöbel (Tubular steel furniture), loose-leaf sales catalogue for furniture offered by the Thonet Company, showing Marcel Breuer’s chair B341/2 and table B53. 1930-31. Lithograph, gravure, and letterpress, 21.3 x 15.6 cm. Published by Thonet International Press Service, Koln. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Department of Architecture and Design Study Center.


Museum of Modern Art
The Joan and Preston Robert Tisch Exhibition Gallery, sixth floor
Century of the Child:
Growing by Design, 1900-2000

July 29-November 5, 2012

The Museum of Modern Art’s ambitious survey of 20th- century design for children, is the first large-scale overview of the modernist preoccupation with children and childhood as a paradigm for progressive design thinking. The exhibition brings together areas underrepresented in design history and often considered separately, including school architecture, playgrounds, toys and animation, clothing, children’s hospitals and safety equipment, nurseries, furniture, and books. This exhibition is organized by Juliet Kinchin, Curator, and Aidan O’Connor, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art.

In 1900, Swedish design reformer and social theorist Ellen Key’s book Century of the Child presaged the 20th century as a period of intensified focus and progressive thinking regarding the rights, development, and well-being of children as interests of utmost importance to all society. Taking inspiration from Key — and looking back through the 20th century 100 years after her forecast — this exhibition examines individual and collective visions for the material world of children, from utopian dreams for the “citizens of the future” to the dark realities of political conflict and exploitation. In this period children have been central to the concerns, ambitions, and activities of modern architects and designers both famous and unsung, and working specifically for children has often provided unique freedom and creativity to the avant-garde.

The exhibition is organized into seven roughly chronological sections exploring different themes through a mix of design type, material, scale, and geographical representation. New Century, New Child, New Art and Design covers the period of 1900 through World War I, focusing on select artistic centers (Glasgow, Vienna, Budapest, Chicago, Rome) in which children were at the heart of a search for a new visual language, while leading designers and intellectuals of the day, many of them women, became involved in addressing children’s rights, welfare, and educational reform. A highlight of this section is the first showing of MoMA’s recently acquired collection of materials representing Friedrich Froebel’s development of Kindergarten, with its “gifts” and “occupations” forming a spiritual system of abstract design activities developed to teach appreciation of natural harmony and foster creativity in developing young minds.

Avant-garde Playtime locates children and childlike perspectives in relation to well known avant-garde groups and movements of the 1920s–1930s, including Expressionist architecture and the Bauhaus in Germany, De Stijl in the Netherlands, Futurism in Italy, and Dada in Switzerland. Toys, puppets, books, and children’s furniture in this section represent how children’s innocently subversive mode of questioning the world around them offered artists (sometimes as parents themselves) a means of challenging visual and social conventions.

Light, Air, Health takes an architectural view of the same inter-war period, connecting modernist concerns for hygiene and healthy development to radical new schools in Europe and the United States, new visions of the city, health centers, sanitariums, and summer colonies for children. In this period the child’s body itself was subject to design through the activities and facilities of body culture, heliotherapy, and new modern clothing.

Children and the Body Politic reveals the involvement of children as both icons and intended audiences of designed propaganda in major political movements (communism, fascism, and colonialism) and conflicts of the 1930s–1940s. Toys, clothing, books, and posters from the former USSR, Japan, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United States bring into focus a recurrent paradox in 20th-century design for children: the simultaneous desire to protect the youngest and most vulnerable section of society from the cares of adult existence, while also projecting onto them ideological values that subsume them within that very same adult world of partisan politics and unequal power relationships.

Regeneration focuses on visions for constructing better, more egalitarian worlds during the baby boom years following World War II, and the exuberant reappearance of children in public urban space and modern, more informal school environments after the wartime experience of confinement or evacuation. Soaring toy sales furthered economic development but also triggered debates about ethical and functional approaches to design.

Power Play explores different ways in which children and consumer culture have exerted power over each other from the 1960s through the end of the 20th century, a broad span of time held together by the prevailing concept of the child consumer as an autonomous agent. During the Cold War, children experienced a very real power struggle via space-themed toys, accessories, animations, and furnishings. New children’s products inspired by the youth-minded principles of Pop art and by consumer culture itself took advantage of new modern materials and manufacturing techniques, while in the digital realms of gaming and communication, children surpassed adults’ command of innovative design. Meanwhile, children have processed the images and text of material culture and mass media in their own ways, sometimes in active subversion of intended meanings and purposes, as in contemporary Japan, where a deep fascination with youth is interpreted by young girls shaping their identities through fashion, accessories, and creative products.

Designing Better Worlds recapitulates the challenges that designers continue to face in a globalized world, and the embrace of a more ethical, progressive, or idealistic philosophy in terms of therapeutic, inclusive and assistive design; graphics and products for transnational aid organizations; and innovative play environments that resonate with the axiom of cultural commentator Pat Kane: “Play will be to the 21st century what work was to the industrial age — our dominant way of knowing, doing and creating value.” This is exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue, a complementary educational program, and a related film series.

Antonio Rubino (Italian, 1880-1964). Il bimbo cattivo (The bad child) bedroom panel. c. 1924. Tempera on canvas, 186 x 167 x 1.5 cm. Wolfsoniana – Fondazione regionale per la Cultura e lo Spettacolo, Genoa.

Helen + Hard AS (Norwegian, established 1996). Siv Helene Stangeland (Norwegian, born 1966) and Reinhard Kropf (Austrian, born 1967). Geopark, Stavanger, Norway. 2011. Photograph by Emile Ashley. Courtesy of the Architects.

Froebel Gift No. 2: Sphere, Cylinder, and Cube. c. 1890. Wood and string, 28.6 x 26 x 7.6 cm. Manufactured by J. L. Hammett Co., Braintree, Massachusetts (est. 1863). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Lawrence Benenson, 2011.

Holdrakèta and original box. c. 1960. Tin, box: 61 x 15.2 cm. Manufactured by Lemezaru Gyar, Budapest (est. 1950). Collection of Joan Wadleigh Curran, Philadelphia.

Paul (Geert Paul Hendrikus) Schuitema (Dutch, 1897-1973). Nutricia, le lait en poudre (Nutricia, powdered milk).1927-28. Letterpress, 36.8 x 30.0 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Jan Tschichold Collection, Gift of Philip Johnson.

Lorraine Schneider (American, 1925-1972). War is Not Healthy for Children and Other Living Things. c. 1967. Lithograph, 73.7 x 76.2 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Department of Architecture and Design Study Center.

Donato D’Urbino (Italian, born 1935), Jonathan De Pas (Italian, 1932-1991), Paolo Lomazzi (Italian, born 1936) and Giorgio DeCurso (Italian, born 1927). Chica Demountable Child’s Chairs. 1971. ABS plastic, assembled: 48.9 x 33 x 33 cm. Manufactured by BBB Bonacina. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the designers

El Lissitzky (Russian, 1890-1941). USSR Russische Ausstellung (USSR Russian exhibition). 1929. Gravure, 124.5 x 89.5 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Jan Tschichold Collection, Gift of Philip Johnson. © 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

Werner John (Swiss, born 1941). Kinder Verkehrs Garten (Children’s traffic garden), poster advertising a children’s traffic school. 1959. Lithograph, 129.5 x 91.4 cm. Printed by Allgemeine Gewerbeschule, Basel. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Architecture and Design Purchase Fund.

Jukka Veistola (Finnish, born 1946). UNICEF. 1969. Offset lithograph, 100.3 x 69.9 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the designer.

Piet Zwart (Dutch, 1885-1977). Child’s chair designed for Wassenaar kindergarten, Netherlands. 1935. Birchwood and aluminum, 66 x 31.8 x 35.6 cm. Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The Modernism Collection, gift of Norwest Bank Minnesota. © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / PICTORIGHT, Amsterdam.

Omnibot 2000, remote-controlled robot. c. 1985. Various materials, 61 x 38.1 x 35.6 cm. Manufactured by Tomy (formerly Tomiyama), Katsushika, Tokyo. Space Age Museum/Kleeman Family Collection, Litchfield, Connecticut.

Ladislav Sutnar (American, born Bohemia [now Czech Republic]. 1897-1976). Park of Pleasures as reproduced in Sutnar’s book Design for Point of Sale (New York: Pellegrini and Cudahy). 1952. Museum of Decorative Arts, Prague.

Unknown Italian designer. Gioco delle 3 oche (Game of the three geese). c. 1944. 31.8 x 57.2 cm. The Wolfsonian-Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Magda Mautner von Markhof (Austrian, 1881-1944). Kalenderbilderbuch (Calendar Picture Book). 1905. Woodcut, 10.2 x 23.5 x 1.3 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder.

Gio Ponti (Italian, 1891-1979). Glass desk. 1930. Glass and metal, 29 3/4 x 27 9/16 x 15 3/4″, 61.7 lb. (75.5 x 70 x 40 cm, 28 kg). Manufactured by Vitrex, Sassuolo. Collection of Maurizio Marzadori, Bologna.