In 1950, the Museum of Modern Art and New York-based Heifetz Manufacturing Company announced a design competition for floor and table lamps, offering cash prizes and the tantalizing promise that Heifetz would put at least three-quarters of the winning designs into production.  Ultimately, eight table lamps and two floor lamps were chosen for manufacture from over 600 entries.  These lamps were exhibited at MoMA from March 27–June 3, 1951 (alongside drawings, diagrams, photographs of the designs), published in Arts & Architecture magazine, and offered for sale across the United States at numerous stores, including Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co. in Chicago and Macy’s in New York and San Francisco.  Now, two of these lamps are on view at the Milwaukee Art Museum as part of Serious Play: Design in Midcentury America (Sept 28, 2018-Jan 6, 2019).
In the early 1950s, designers Charles and Ray Eames painstakingly arranged penny cars, pencils, pills, and papers to photograph for their House of Cards construction set. They probably never imagined that decades later, thousands of children and adults in the Milwaukee region would meticulously decorate their own House of Cards, let alone that these cards would be installed together in a towering spiral at the Milwaukee Art Museum in conjunction with the exhibition Serious Play: Design in Midcentury America.
Spring cleaning isn’t just for attics—the Museum’s Design Galleries were recently refreshed with a new coat of paint and numerous recent acquisitions. From turn-of-the-century silver to twenty-first-century furniture, these objects demonstrate the wide range of what we mean by “design” at the Milwaukee Art Museum.
Among the newly-installed acquisitions, the earliest is a silver basket from 1905. This piece was designed by Josef Hoffmann at the Wiener Werkstätte, a workshop in Vienna that Hoffmann co-founded with fellow designer Koloman Moser in 1903. The workshop sought to eliminate boundaries between art and design; it brought together artists, designers, and architects, who produced textiles, ceramics, metalwork, and more. This basket’s elegant gridwork is an excellent example of how Hoffmann created visual interest through an object’s structure, rather than by adding additional ornamentation.
Among the many eye-catching objects in the exhibition Jaime Hayon: Technicolor, the delicate etching, dangling earrings, and dazzling glass surfaces of Afrikando are particularly alluring. This set of seven glass vessels is on view for the first time in the exhibition of work by Spanish artist-designer Jaime Hayon. Designed by Hayon expressly for the Milwaukee Art Museum’s permanent Collection, Afrikando fuses the tradition of glassblowing with the designer’s delightfully fresh contemporary sensibility.
On view now through March 25th in the Bradley Family Gallery, Jaime Hayon: Technicolor brightens up wintertime in Milwaukee with a colorful splash of fun and fantasy. The energetic exhibition features work from two decades of the Spanish artist-designer’s career, including textiles, ceramics, glass, drawings, and playground equipment. These works represent a wide range of approaches to making, thinking, and viewing, while also remaining unified by a refreshing sense of playful whimsy.