Egmont Arens (American, 1888-1966) and Theodore C. Brookhart (American, 1898-1942), Streamliner Meat Slicer (model 410). c. 1940, Aluminum, steel, and rubber, Manufactured by Hobart Manufacturing Company, Troy, Ohio, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Eric Brill in memory of Abbie Hoffman.

A. M. Cassandre (French, 1901-1968), Watch the Fords Go By. 1937. Billboard for Ford Motor Company. Offset lithograph, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the designer.

The Undeniable Effect of Modernism on Design from 1880 to 1980

The Ironrite Ironer Co., Detroit, MI (American, established 1911), Health Chair, 1938. Steel and lacquered plywood, Manufactured by The Ironrite Ironer Co., Detroit, MI, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the manufacturer.

Jules Chéret (French, 1836-1932), Folies-Bergère La Loïe Fuller. 1893, Lithograph. 48 1/2 x 34 1/2" (123.2 x 87.6 cm)The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired by exchange.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh (British, 1868-1928), Side Chair, 1897, Oak and silk, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the Glasgow School of Art.


Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
New York
The Philip Johnson
Architecture and Design Galleries,
third floor
Shaping Modernity:
Design 1880-1980

December 23, 2009-July 2010

Surveying design's impact on modernity, Shaping Modernity: Design 1880-1980 assesses the eras of modern design from The International New Art (1890-1914) to What Was Good Design? MoMA’s Message (1944-56) and comes up with the understandable notion that, indeed, design's effect on the evolution of the modern world is every bit as great as modernity's effect on design over the years, eclipsing the controversy of the chicken and the egg.

The exhibition features a selection of visionary objects, graphics, architectural fragments, and textiles from the Museum’s collection that reveal the attempts of successive generations to shape their experience of living in the modern world. The installation features 300 works organized into five sections: Art Nouveau objects and posters from 1890 to 1914; the graphic design movement known as the "New Typography" (1927-37); works that focus on the relationship of machine, body, and mind (1925-40); the Good Design movement (1944-56); and works from the 1960s and 1970s. The reinstallation is organized by Juliet Kinchin, Curator, and Aidan O’Connor, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art.

The installation is organized into the following sections:

The International New Art 1890-1914 flourished in urban centers around the world taking on many localized forms and names (among them Art Nouveau, Jugendstil, Arte Modernista, Sezession, and Glasgow Style). Hector Guimard (French, 1867-1942), the leading figure of the movement in France, looked to the natural world to revitalize modern forms. His personal desk and armchair (c. 1899) exemplify the Art Nouveau style with organic, especially inspired by flowers and other plants, and flowing curvilinear forms. The pieces in this installation were used in the office of the MoMA’s founding director, Alfred H. Barr, Jr. Other examples in the exhibition include a side chair (1897) by Charles Rennie Mackintosh (British, 1868-1928), a side table (1901) by Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott (British, 1865-1945), and a plaster cast of Antoni Gaudí’s (Spanish, 1852-1926) original finial sculpture for the Church of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

The poster movement of the 1890s was a new phenomenon that emphasized connections between the graphic and fine arts. Many of the graphics of this time embodied the New Art style. Jules Chéret (French, 1836-1932) was one of the most famous printmakers of the late nineteenth century and is credited as the originator of the artistic lithographic poster. His poster Folies-Bergère, La Loïe Fuller (1893) features the American dancer Loïe Fuller. A video of Fuller dancing is also included. Among the other works are Mackintosh’s poster for the magazine The Scottish Musical Review (1896) and Jan Toorop’s (Dutch, 1858-1928) Het Hoogeland Beekbergen (1896), which advertises a rehabilitation center for the destitute.

In the 1920s and 1930s the movement known as the New Typography (1927-37) brought graphics and information design to the forefront of artistic avant-gardes in Europe. Rejecting traditional arrangement of type in symmetrical columns, modernist designers organized the printed page or poster as a blank field in which blocks of type and illustration (frequently photomontage) could be arranged in harmonious, strikingly asymmetrical compositions. Taking his lead from currents in Soviet Russia and at the Weimar Bauhaus, the designer Jan Tschichold (Swiss, b. Germany, 1902-1974) codified the movement with accessible guidelines in his landmark book Die Neue Typographie (1928). Almost overnight, typographers and printers adapted this way of working for a huge range of printed matter, from business cards and brochures to magazines, books, and advertisements. This installation of posters and numerous small-scale works is drawn from MoMA’s rich collection of Soviet Russian, German, Dutch, and Czechoslovak graphics. They represent material from Tschichold’s own collection, which supported his teaching and publication from around 1927 to 1937.

In the exhibition are 14 posters by Tschichold, Ladislav Sutnar (American, b. Bohemia [now Czech Republic], 1897-1976), Johannes Molzahn (German, 1892-1965), Theo H. Ballmer (Swiss, 1902-1965), and others, as well as small-scale letterpress works and objects by Herbert Bayer (American, b. Austria, 1900-1985), Frantisek Kalivoda (Czech, 1913–1971), Zdenek Rossmann (Czech, 1905-1984), Joost Schmidt (German, 1893-1948), and Aleksandr Rodchenko (Russian, 1891-1956).

The tone of the Mind, Body, Machine (1925-40) section is set by a giant railroad-car spring and a boat propeller first shown in MoMA’s landmark Machine Art exhibition in 1934, which celebrated such items of anonymous industrial design as symbols of social improvement and technological progress. The theme is further explored in utilitarian objects such as a streamlined meat-slicer (given in memory of the "Yippie" leader Abbie Hoffman), and the Vipp trash can, designed for a Danish hair salon

Among the other works in this section are A. M. Cassandre’s (French, 1901-1968) iconic billboard for the Ford Motor Company from 1937. By employing Cassandre, Ford Motors infused their corporate reputation for industrial innovation with the artistic cachet of European modernism. The poster features a giant eye with the slogan "Watch the Fords Go By," which gives a sense of modern vision in motion, while the V8 icon imprinted on the iris suggests a fusion of mind, body, and technology. Also included are amorphous aluminum coffee tables (1935-38) designed by Frederick Kiesler (American, b. Romania, 1890-1965), and Eileen Gray’s (British, b. Ireland, 1879-1976) elegant lacquered screen (1922).

The Section What Was Good Design? MoMA’s Message (1944-56), which opened May, 2009, presents over 100 selections from the Museum’s collection — ranging from domestic furnishings and appliances to textiles, sporting goods, and graphics — to illuminate the primary values of Good Design as promoted by MoMA within an international debate conducted by museums, design councils, and department stores. Iconic pieces by designers including Marcel Breuer (American, b. Hungary, 1902-1981), Charles (American, 1907-1978) and Ray (American, 1912-1988) Eames, Eero Saarinen (American, b. Finland, 1910-1961), and Hans Wegner (Danish, 1914-2007) are shown alongside more unexpected items such as a hunting bow and a plumb bob, as well as everyday objects including an iron, a hamper, a rake, a cheese slicer, and Tupperware.

Continuity and Critique (1960-80 The clean and elegant forms of classic modernism continued to appear in the domestic appliances of Dieter Rams (German, b. 1932) for Braun, Vignelli Associates’ stacking plastic dinnerware. For many though, emphasis on pop music, youth, and counterculture opened possibilities in materials, colors, and forms — more humorous, expendable design. The Blow Inflatable Armchair (1967) designed by Jonathan De Pas (Italian, 1932-1991), Paolo Lomazzi (Italian, b. 1936) and Donato D'Urbino (Italian, b. 1935) became a landmark of Pop furniture and a 1960s icon of Italian design. Executed in candy-colored PVC plastic, it was more affordable than many other contemporary works. Ugo La Pietra’s (Italian, b. 1938) Uno sull'altro (One on Top of the Other) Stacking Shelves (1970) exemplifies contemporary interest in flexible design suited to new ideas regarding lifestyle and domestic environment.

Paolo Lomazzi (Italian, born 1936), Donato D'Urbino (Italian, born 1935), and Jonathan De Pas (Italian, 1932-1991), Blow Inflatable Armchair. 1967, PVC plastic, Manufactured by Zanotta S.p.A., Italy, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the manufacturer.