about

The Object of the Week blog is written by Cooper Hewitt’s curators, graduate fellows, and contributing researchers and scholars. Posts are published every week and present research on an object from the museum’s collection. With over 210,000 objects spanning thirty centuries of decorative arts and design, Object of the Week explores the material culture of textiles, graphic design, furniture, products, architectural drawings, wallcoverings, and much more.

Image features a rectangular panel of wallpaper showing stylized branches and foliage interspersed with cubist motifs printed in green, black, burgundy, tan, yellow, gray and metallic gold on mottled tan ground. The paper is embossed with very fine horizontal wavy lines. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
Charles Burchfield’s Modern Wallpaper
This post was originally published on June 1, 2016. Charles Burchfield is one of the best known American watercolorists of the twentieth century, painting urban street scenes as well as more rural landscapes in a rather sullen fashion. It is less well known that he designed wallpaper, working for the M. H. Birge and Sons...
Image features: Dense configuration of dark brown lines has overlapping yellow and red lines creating rectangular groupings on a white ground. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
Glen Plaid
“One of the most promising newcomers in the highly competitive field of fabric design is a youthful, multi-talented New Yorker, Joel Robinson,” Ebony magazine proclaimed in 1952.[1] Robinson’s printed fabric Ovals had been shown that winter in The Museum of Modern Art’s 1951 Good Design exhibition, making him the first African American to be included...
Image features the cream-colored cover of the 1929 UAM catalog, showing the capital letters UAM in black and cream-white, aligned vertically and horizontally and superimposed on a large red circle. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
Modernism Evolving
The UAM Catalogue is one of many period resources in the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Library that chronicle French Art Deco and the shift into modernism in the twentieth century. The UAM (Union des Artistes Modernes) was founded in May, 1929, by a group of French designers, decorators, and architects, led by Robert Mallet-Stevens, who were...
Image features a white-enameled beehive-shaped hanging lamp divided into five horizontal segments by perforated brass bands. The lamp hangs from a white cord at center top. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
Aura of Light
“A lamp… [is] always part of an environment…. When working on… public building[s], I noticed that such furnishings and appliances were necessary to create the right unity, and then I designed them. The fact that later on they can also fit in another environment is another story.”[1] Lighting had become a significant part of Alvar...
Image features a drawing of an altar in a neoclassical style, with architectural plan. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
A Surprise Victory for Robert Mylne
On September 23rd, 1758, an aspiring architect named Robert Mylne (1733 – 1811) wrote to his younger brother William (1734 – 1790) with astonishing news. At twenty-four years old, Robert had just become the first Briton awarded top prize in the Concorso Clementino, a famous architecture competition held every three years in Rome.[1] This drawing...
Image features a wallpaper panel showing yearbook portraits of teenage boys displayed in decorative oval frames surrounded by flowers on a bright rainbow-colored ground printed in fluorescent ink and black rayon flock. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
Framing The Bullies
In celebration of LGBTQ+ Pride Month, June Object of the Week posts highlight LGBTQ+ designers and design in the collection.  Bright-faced youths peer back at you from a vibrant web of floral foliage. But this wallpaper, titled Bullies, strikes a scornful tone. Multi-disciplinary artist Virgil Marti sourced the portraits seen in the wallpaper from his...
Image features a ceramic vase with a slender neck and bulbous base. The neck is smooth and gilded. The base has a prickly, fur-like texture and is light pink. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
Surreal Provocateurs
In celebration of LGBTQ+ Pride Month, June Object of the Week posts highlight LGBTQ+ designers and design in the collection.  Nature has a way of informing us—however we engage, we learn from its resilient processes. Nature also has a way of amusing, perplexing and delighting us with its complex and idiosyncratic forms. This edifying and...
Image features a design drawing for a retail kiosk, consisting of a red platform with wheels supporting a black pyramid surmounted by a rectangle with a photograph of fashion designer Willi Smith in profile. A rectangular, black and white banner, proclaiming “WilliWear/WilliSmith” is on a pole at the top. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
Radical Retail
In celebration of LGBTQ+ Pride Month, June Object of the Week posts highlight LGBTQ+ designers and design in the collection.  In 1987, artist and designer Dan Friedman was commissioned by his friends and collaborators Willi Smith and Laurie Mallet to design the interior of a new Paris retail store for their clothing brand WilliWear. In...
Image features: Silk embroidery in pale colors on dark blue linen. A horizontally and vertically symmetrical floral pattern in the Morris style. Please scroll to read the blog post about this object.
The Titan’s Daughter
In celebration of LGBTQ+ Pride Month, June Object of the Week posts highlight LGBTQ+ designers and design in the collection. A version of this post was originally published on June 20, 2016. May Morris will forever be in the shadow of her famous father William Morris, the chief protagonist of the English Arts and Crafts movement,...