The Museum of Modern Art opened just over a week after the stock market crash of 1929. In the depths of the Depression, using as their laboratories both MoMA and their own apartments in New York City, Barr and Johnson experimented with new ideas in museum ideology, extending the scope beyond painting and sculpture to include architecture, photography, graphic design, furniture, industrial design, and film; with exhibitions of ordinary, machine-made objects (including ball bearings and kitchenware) elevated to art by their elegant design; and with installations in dramatically lit galleries with smooth, white walls.
Partners in Design, which accompanies an exhibition opening at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in April 2016, chronicles their collaboration, placing it in the larger context of the avant-garde in New York 1930s salons where they mingled with Julien Levy, the gallerist who brought Surrealism to the United States, and Lincoln Kirstein, co-founder of the New York City Ballet; their work to help Bauhaus artists like Josef and Anni Albers escape Nazi Germany and the dissemination of their ideas across the United States through MoMA s traveling exhibition program. Plentifully illustrated with icons of modernist design, MoMA installation views, and previously unpublished images of the Barr and Johnson apartments domestic laboratories for modernism, and in Johnson s case, designed and furnished by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe this fascinating study sheds new light on the introduction and success in North America of a new kind of modernism, thanks to the combined efforts of two uniquely discerning and influential individuals."
- ISBN-13: 9781580934336
- ISBN-10: 1580934331
- Publisher: Monacelli Press
- Publish Date: October 2015
- Page Count: 232
- Dimensions: 11.5 x 8.5 x 1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.95 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-10-19
- Reviewer: Staff
This sleek and accessible catalogue, edited by Hanks (The Century for Modern Design), focuses on the historic relationship between Alfred Barr Jr., founding director of the Museum of Modern Art, and Philip Johnson, the well-to-do Harvard grad he selected in 1929 to lead the museums department of architecture and design. As the essays here repeatedly stress in different ways, the two brought about a transformational period of American design. Barr and Johnson helped make the slick, nondecorative functionalist aesthetics of Germanys Bauhaus palatable to mainstream Americans. They developed novel, ambitious, yet popular exhibitions that advanced the art of the everyday object and encouraged the public to seek it out. Much of the book foregrounds these, such as the 1934 Machine Art exhibition on industrial design that marked the beginning of the museums role as tastemaker and represented the culmination of the Barr-Johnson partnership. The best essay looks at Barr and Johnsons apartments, and how they used their own living spaces to articulate concepts of the new modern interior. The book is full of crisp, cool examples of relevant objects, some from the exhibitions or the personal collections of Barr or Johnson, and each with an explanatory paragraph. These include cake pans, lamps, tables, Josef Hartwigs chess set of abstract geometric shapes, and wickedly handsome chairs designed by Mies van der Rohe. The slick design and layout of the book clearly take a cue from its subjects. Illus. (Nov.)