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 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.
Jaime Hayon trained in his native Madrid and in Paris before directing the design department at Fabrica, the Benetton-funded design and communication academy in Italy, for nearly a decade. In 2003, he left Fabrica to focus on his own studio practice. Hayon Studio now has offices in Italy, Spain, and Japan and is acclaimed worldwide.
The exhibition currently on view in the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Bradley Family Gallery (through June 25) is How Posters Work. On Thursday, April 6, 2017, the museum hosted a program in conjunction with the exhibition called Local Luminaries: Poster Provocation. This gallery tour welcomed luminaries from the Milwaukee area to share their unique perspectives about the works in the show.
John Rieben, graphic designer and professor emeritus from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, could not be present for the program due to inclement weather. We are happy to share his thoughts below:
I would like to spend a few minutes talking about my design hero and inspiration, Josef Müller-Brockmann. I think the greatest of the poster makers were [Toulouse] Lautrec, Cassandre, and Müller-Brockmann. Müller-Brockman, however, was more than a poster maker. He was the leading protagonist of a new way of visual communication, which became a worldwide movement that affected virtually every designer in the profession and every commercial message. It became known as Swiss Design.
What did socialites in Milwaukee read during the jazz age of the late 1920s?
Well, naturally, everyone was reading The Modern Milwaukeean!
The magazine circulated from September of 1928 through the spring of 1930 and billed itself as the key publication for keeping up with the latest technological trends and everything modern. It proposed modernity as a way of life, but what really set The Modern Milwaukeean apart was its modern graphic design.
In 1898, the artists periodical The Studio called Christopher Dresser “perhaps the greatest of commercial designers imposing his fantasy and invention upon the ordinary output of British industry.” This seems an appropriate description for an Englishman who was interested in art but first trained in botany, and then found inspiration for his designs both in the ancient past and traditions of Japan.
Looking at two of Dresser’s designs in the collection of the Milwaukee Art Museum–a pitcher produced by the Watcombe Terracotta Clay Company and a claret jug produced by Hulkin & Heath–you can see how he applied his own personal motto to his work: truth, beauty, power. The sleek and angular vessels lack the decoration that most people associate with the Victorian period, which would have been at its height in the 1870’s. They look like something from the 20th century!
It may surprise you then, that Dresser was also known for his interests in flat patterning.
This is the second in a series of blog posts highlighting a variety of different positions within the Milwaukee Art Museum. Each day, hundreds of visitors enter the Milwaukee Art Museum to stare in awe at the incredible wealth of artworks within the museum’s collection. But what can too often go unrecognized is the equally awe-inspiring work of the many museum staff members, without whom the museum in its current state could not exist. “MAM Behind the Scenes” is a blog series written by Digital Learning intern Emma Fallone to showcase the wide range of positions that make up a museum, and to reveal just a few of the many people whose work makes the Milwaukee Art Museum a source of inspiration and education.
Can you give a brief description of your job, in thirty seconds or less?
To use an analogy: the exhibition designer is the person who shows up on moving day when you’re moving into a new apartment, and helps you to arrange everything so that the space is used efficiently and everything looks really good! At the Milwaukee Art Museum, the “apartment” is usually the special exhibition space, which is cleared out and rearranged for each new show. So, every time we have a new special exhibit, it’s like one tenant is moving out and another is moving in – and their belongings are the artworks which are going to be displayed. The exhibition designer works with the curator to figure out what goes where, so that you don’t have your kitchen appliances in the bathroom, so to speak!
Ever wonder about the details of developing an art museum exhibition? I have to admit, an advanced degree in art history does not directly prepare a curator for the loan agreements, budget constrictions, press relationships, and conservation concerns that must be negotiated and balanced along with telling a great story.
In order to break down and share what I think is a pretty fascinating process, I’ve put together a six-part blog post series that addresses the steps I took in developing the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Grete Marks: When Modern Was Degenerate exhibition (on view September 6, 2012 – January 1, 2013).
Every exhibition should start with and keep at its core great artwork and a meaningful story. For me, this exhibition germinated when I encountered a Bauhaus-trained ceramist named Grete Marks in 2007.
I’d never heard her name. I wasn’t a Bauhaus expert.
But I felt something for her teapots.