Modern Interiors, Fabulous Designs, and Gilded Age Gems
This month, we’ve chosen three museum exhibitions that address, in various ways, how we live (or once lived), including our choice of surroundings and the items we use in our daily lives. Far from being mundane, however, each show presents a collection of striking and thought-provoking pieces and environments, from ornate 19th century costumes to modern-day electronics.
The design of domestic and commercial interior spaces has naturally evolved over the years, subject to various social, technological, and aesthetic trends. MoMA’s exhibition How Should We Live? Propositions for the Modern Interior looks specifically at environments created during the height of the modern era (1920s to 1950s) to answer the question its title poses. The show combines more than 200 works, drawn from MoMA’s Architecture and Design collection as well as other departments, to explore the processes and materials that shaped the time, focusing on designers’ own living spaces, and at frequently overlooked areas in design, including textiles, wallpapers, kitchens, and promotional displays. Highlights include recent acquisitions from projects directed by female architect-designers, including Eileen Gray’s furnishings for the house E-1027 (1929) and Charlotte Perriand’s study bedroom from the Maison du Brésil (1959). There are also creations from noted partnerships, such as Lilly Reich and Mies van der Rohe’s Velvet and Silk Café (1927), and collaborations between Aino and Alvar Aalto; Ray and Charles Eames; Florence Knoll and Herbert Matter; and Charlotte Perriand, Pierre Jeanneret and Le Corbusier. (Through 4/23, 11 W. 53rd St. at Ave. of the Americas)
Energizing the Everyday: Gifts From the George R. Kravis II Collection
Inspired by an interest in records and recording gear, George R. Kravis II began collecting radios, televisions, and other electronic devices at a young age. He later expanded his interests into industrial design and office furnishings, eventually amassing a marvelously diverse assortment. Recently the philanthropist donated these holdings to the Cooper-Hewitt, resulting in the exhibition Energizing the Everyday: Gifts From the George R. Kravis II Collection. On display are highlights from the U.S., Europe, and Asia, dating from the early 20th century to the present. The beautifully designed furniture, tableware, textiles, electronics, and other items show strong visual and material connections across time and geography. In collecting these objects, Kravis took into account user and manufacturer in addition to form and function, the hallmarks of good design. From the sleek, curvy 1939 vanity by Herman Miller to the colorful 2007 One Laptop Per Child XO Computer by Quanta, each item is an artwork to behold as well as a functional piece to admire. (Through 3/12/17, 2 E. 91st St. at Fifth Ave.)
Gilded New York at the Museum of the City of New York
For those who think that current-day New York City epitomizes the excesses of wealth, Gilded New York, at the Museum of the City of New York, might convince them otherwise. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there was a steep rise in industrial and corporate wealth, accumulated by titans such as Cornelius Vanderbilt and Jay Gould. They and their families flaunted their moneyed status through extravagant fashions, palatial homes, and over-the-top balls. Gilded New York gives us a glimpse into this bygone lifestyle with a sumptuous display of nearly 100 works, including costumes, jewelry, portraits, and decorative objects created between the mid- 1870s and the early 1900s. Highlights include a “fancy dress” costume representing “Electric Light,” worn by Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt II to the Vanderbilt Ball in 1883, and a painting of “Cornelia Ward Hall and Her Children” (1880) by Michele Gordigiani, a popular portraitist of the day. (Ongoing, 1220 Fifth Ave. at 103rd St.)