Modern Lamps in Midcentury America

Three women looking at a lamp in an exhibition
Installation view of the exhibition “The House in the Museum Garden,” April 12, 1949–October 30, 1949. Photographic Archive, Exhibition Albums, 405.9. The Museum of Modern Art Archives, New York. IN405.15. Photo by Ezra Stoller

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. [1] Ultimately, eight table lamps and two floor lamps were chosen for manufacture from over 600 entries. [2] 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. [3] 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).

20th and 21st Century Design Art Collection Curatorial

From Museum Storage—Beneath a Ray and Charles Eames LCW Chair

Late in 2010 I advocated that the Museum accept a Ray and Charles Eames DCW (“Dining Chair Wood”) into the Permanent Collection.

No big surprise there, as this bent plywood chair is the iconic work of two of the most influential 20th-century furniture designers. It is a must-have for any design collection!

However, this chair wasn’t the Museum’s first Eames object. The Collection already included one DCW chair (pictured at left), a 1946 folding plywood screen, and several examples of the World War II U.S. Navy leg splint that bolstered Ray and Charles’ experiments in complex two-way bent molded plywood.

So why an additional example of the DCW? And, why this one?

Well, to tell the truth, I put in to motion the Museum’s acceptance of the DCW based on a hunch…and I just might be wrong.