UMMA inaugurates new design gallery
Even if you know UMMA's collection well, you may be surprised to learn that the Museum has assembled a choice group of domestic design objects thanks to two recent, generous gifts. Consisting primarily of works of iconic twentieth-century furniture design, these pieces will go on view this summer in the first installation of UMMA's new dedicated design gallery, the A. Alfred Taubman Gallery II, located on the second floor of the Maxine and Stuart Frankel and the Frankel Family Wing. The design gallery is an important component of the Museum's rededication to modern and contemporary visual culture and to making its own twentieth- and twenty-first-century holdings more visible. The UMMA objects will be joined by several works on extended loan from the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The new design gallery has been co-curated by UMMA Director Joseph Rosa and Katherine Brion, UMMA's Mellon Curatorial Fellow and UM PhD candidate in history of art.
"This gallery is really meant to introduce visitors to advanced twentieth-century design sensibilities by showcasing a variety of works and their material aspects," explained Rosa. "We are very grateful to Herbert and Susan Johe and to Robert Metcalf for gifting these extraordinary and classic examples of domestic design and for instituting a wonderful new collecting focus for the Museum."
"As the UMMA Mellon Curatorial Fellow and a specialist in nineteenth-century painting, working on the design gallery project has both allowed me to gain critical curatorial experience and furthered my knowledge of design history and concerns," shared Brion.
The installation is divided into three sections-early twentieth-century objects forged in metal, which was previously associated with machines, not domestic interiors; mid-century furniture that integrated modernist form, function, and new materials (including plastic) with mass production; and contemporary work that begins to call into question the parameters of industrial production and the very function of furniture design. Among the objects included in the installation are a table and chairs by Marcel Breuer-the epitome of Bauhaus-inspired European modernism; classic Charles and Ray Eames chairs in fiberglass or molded plywood, examples of quality design accessible to a wide public; a dresser by visionary and futurist designer Norman Bel Geddes; a loveseat by total-design advocate and Michigan native Florence Knoll; and a handcrafted wood hanging wall case by Japanese-American designer George Nakashima. Both design aficionados and novices may recognize some of the historic work on view since updated versions of the pieces are still being produced today. Juxtaposing these classic pieces with contemporary objects-including works by Frank Gehry and Hella Jongerius-brings the gallery into the twenty-first century, demonstrating the ways in which designers have reinterpreted-and sometimes rejected-modernist ideals in the light of current technologies and attitudes, including those of our own digital age.