Published: April 29, 2008
Opening May 6, “Masterpieces of Modern Design: Selections from the Collection” in the Helen and Milton A. Kimmelman Gallery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art will showcase many of the most significant works in the Metropolitan Museum’s modern design collection. The major design movements are represented through works created by some of the most renowned designers of the Twentieth Century.
Among the earliest works in the installation are a recently acquired 1898 Jugendstil candlestick by Richard Riemerschmid; examples of the turn of the Twentieth Century Arts and Crafts movement by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Charles Robert Ashbee; French Art Nouveau designs by Georges de Feure and Hector Guimard; and Wiener Werkstätte furniture and decorative objects by Josef Hoffmann and Otto Prutscher.
Design from the 1920s and 1930s includes Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s International Style MR armchair; French Art Deco by René Jules Lalique and Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann; works from the Bauhaus school by Josef Albers, Marianne Brandt and Marcel Breuer; and iconic examples of American modern design by Paul T. Frankel and Eliel Saarinen.
Postwar design on view encompasses mass-produced works by Charles and Ray Eames, Isamu Noguchi and Verner Panton; postmodern designs from the 1980s by Mario Bellini, Michael Graves and Ettore Sottsass; and examples of the studio craft movement by Olga de Amaral, Sheila Hicks and Harvey K. Littleton.
A highlight of the installation will be “The History of Navigation,” 1934, a magnificent and monumental reverse-painted and gilded glass mural by Jean Dupas (French, 1882‱964). More than 20 feet in height, this shimmering decoration was made for the first-class salon of the extravagantly appointed French ocean liner Normandie , the last great expression of French Art Deco taste. This will be the first presentation of the 56-panel mural in its entirety since it was removed from the Normandie before the liner was scuttled in 1942.
French Art Deco is one of the strongest areas of the Metropolitan’s modern design collection, due, in part, to the foresight of curator Joseph Breck, who in the 1920s oversaw the acquisition of many extraordinary examples of this style: lacquered vases by Jean Dunand; a silver, lapis lazuli and ivory coffee service by Jean E. Puiforcat; Henri Simmen’s aventurine-glazed pottery jar with its ivory cover; and the macassar ebony and ivory-inlaid État cabinet by Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann, which the museum specially commissioned from the designer in 1925.
Also featured are two important Art Deco works acquired in 2004: Lalique’s iconic glass Tourbillons vase and a spectacular silk brocade textile by Michel Dubost made for the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes of 1925, the landmark French exhibition which today gives its name to the Art Deco style.
The installation presents a number of newly acquired contemporary works, including Gaetano Pesce’s latex Black Rotation vase, 2005; an experimental Gyre lounge chair, 2006, by Zaha Hadid; Dale Chihuly’s blown-glass Verdant Green Black Macchia with Sulfur Lip Wrap, 2007; Dusasa II, 2007, a monumental wall-mounted sculpture in found aluminum and copper wire by El Anatsui; and precious jewelry by Mary Lee Hu and William Harper.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is at 1000 Fifth Avenue. For information, 212-570-3951 or www.metmuseum.org .
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