Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum Presents “Looking Forward/Looking Back: Recent Acquisitions in 20th- and 21st-Century Design”
The Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum will present “Looking Forward/Looking Back: Recent Acquisitions in 20th- and 21st-Century Design,” an exhibition showcasing additions to the permanent collection from Aug. 17 through Oct. 14. The exhibition will be on view in Cooper-Hewitt’s ground-floor gallery and will feature significant works by renowned 20th-century designers, including Paul Frankl, René Herbst, Herbert Matter and Philippe Starck. The works will be arranged in rough chronological order, enabling visitors to observe shifts in design ethos across a range of mediums, from furniture to textiles to graphic design. “Looking Forward/Looking Back” is organized by the museum’s curatorial team of Susan Brown and Nurit Einik.
“Collections are the lifeblood of all museums, and we are excited to show visitors what Cooper-Hewitt has acquired recently in keeping with our mission to build and maintain the premier design collection in the country,” said director Paul Warwick Thompson. “The contemporary slant of this exhibition reflects our goal to present design along a continuum, with equal emphasis on historic and present-day objects.”
The section representing the first half of the 20th century features works such as “Sandows No. 5,” a chrome-plated steel and elastic-cord chair from 1929 that was designed and owned by René Herbst, as well as a 1936 advertisement poster by Swiss designer Herbert Matter, who was one of the first designers to incorporate photography into graphic design. Other highlights from this period include Art Deco wallpapers; a 1933 lacquered wood and canvas desk by Paul Frankl that exemplifies the American modernist period in furniture design; and the Egg Chair, designed by Antonio Volpe in 1905, which illustrates a key transitional moment, when furniture design inspired by abstract, geometric forms started to become popular.
Works on view in the section representing the period from 1950 to 2000 include woven miniatures by acclaimed textile artist Sheila Hick; a 1958 George Nakashima cabinet, which combines traditional Japanese woodworking techniques with innovative modern forms; and a vase from the 1960s “Windows” series by Italian glass designer Anzolo Fuga for the Arte Vetraria Muranese Factory. The vase is the first work by Fuga that the museum has acquired and is a colorful and dramatic embodiment of the revolutionary glass working techniques pioneered by Fuga at Murano.
Among the more contemporary works featured in “Looking Forward/Looking Back” are Philippe Starck’s W.W. stool, originally designed as part of a fantasy office environment for the German film director Wim Wenders, which is constructed from a single piece of sand-cast aluminum and finished in turquoise enamel; “V2” wall tiles manufactured by the Philadelphia-based company MIO, which are constructed from 100 percent recycled paper and can be painted and re-used numerous times by consumers, thereby reflecting both the trend toward “green” design and the burgeoning do-it-yourself design movement; and a digital print of Preston Scott Cohen’s 2003 redesign for the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, which is one of only six in existence.
Under the leadership of director Paul Warwick Thompson, Cooper-Hewitt has undertaken an ambitious acquisitions strategy, with a particular focus on enhancing the quality, depth and coherence of the contemporary collection. The Collections Committee, led by Cooper-Hewitt trustee Elizabeth Ainslie, evaluates future gifts and purchases for the collection based on the level of design innovation, workmanship and virtuosity. “Looking Forward/Looking Back” will display objects from the past 100 years that were acquired in order to expand the breadth of the collection and augment the museum’s contemporary holdings.
Cooper-Hewitt’s permanent collection is one of the most diverse and comprehensive collections of design work in the world. Tracing the history of design through more than 250,000 objects spanning 24 centuries, from the Han Dynasty (200 B.C.) to the present, the museum’s collections are organized by four curatorial departments: Product Design and Decorative Arts; Drawings, Prints and Graphic Design; Textiles; and Wallcoverings. Recently, Cooper-Hewitt’s curatorial focus has shifted to include more exhibitions built around collection objects—such as “Feeding Desire: Design and the Tools of the Table” and “Frederic Church, Winslow Homer and Thomas Moran: Tourism and the American Landscape—allowing the museum to examine the impact of design through reflection upon its own history.
About the Museum
Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution is the only museum in the nation devoted exclusively to historic and contemporary design. The museum presents compelling perspectives on the impact of design on daily life through active educational programs, exhibitions and publications. Founded in 1897 by Amy, Eleanor, and Sarah Hewitt—granddaughters of industrialist Peter Cooper—as part of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, the museum has been a branch of the Smithsonian since 1967.
Cooper-Hewitt is located at 2 East 91st Street at Fifth Avenue in New York City. Hours are Mondays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Fridays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sundays, noon to 6 p.m. The museum is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Public transit routes include the Lexington Avenue 4, 5 and 6 subways (86th or 96th Street stations) and the Fifth and Madison Avenue buses. General admission, $12; senior citizens and students ages 12 and older, $9. Cooper-Hewitt members and children younger than age 12 are admitted free. For further information, please call (212) 849-8300 or visit http://www.cooperhewitt.org. The museum is fully accessible.
# # #