This week the MoMA opened The Value of Good Design, an exhibition that examines the titular subject by looking backwards to look forwards:
Peter Schlumbohm (American, born Germany. 1896–1962). Chemex Coffee Maker. 1941. Pyrex glass, wood, and leather, 9 1/2 × 6 1/8? (24.2 × 15.5 cm). Manufactured by Chemex Corp. (New York, NY, est. 1941). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Lewis & Conger
Sony Corporation (Tokyo, Japan, est. 1946). Television (TX8-301). 1959. Plastic, metal, and glass, 8 1/2 × 8 1/4 × 10? (21.6 × 21 × 25.4 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder
Sori Yanagi (Japanese, 1915–2011). Butterfly Stools. 1956. Molded plywood and metal, each: 15 1/2 × 17 3/8 × 12 1/8? (39.4 × 44.1 × 30.8 cm). Manufactured by Tendo Co., Ltd., (Tokyo, Japan, est. 1940). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the designer
"Is there art in a broomstick? Yes, says Manhattan's Museum of Modern Art, if it is designed both for usefulness and good looks." This quote, from a 1953 Time magazine review of one of MoMA's mid-century Good Design exhibitions, gets to the heart of a question the Museum has been asking since its inception: What is good design and how can it enhance everyday life?
Greta Von Nessen (American, born Sweden. 1898–1978). Anywhere Lamp. 1951. Aluminum and enameled steel, 14 3/4 × 14 1/4? (37.5 × 36.2 cm). Manufactured by Nessen Studio, Inc (New York, NY, est. 1927). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Architecture and Design Purchase Fund
L.M. Ericsson Telephone Company, (Swedish, est. 1876). Hugo Blomberg (Swedish, born 1897), Ralph Lysell (Swedish, born 1907), Hans Gösta Thames (Swedish, born 1916). Ericofon Telephone. 1949–54. ABS plastic, rubber, and nylon housing, .1 (white): 8 1/2 x 3 7/8 x 4 3/8? (21.6 x 9.8 x 11.1 cm); .2 (yellow): 9 1/8 x 3 7/8 x 4 3/8? (23.2 x 9.8 x 11.1 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Given anonymously
Featuring objects from domestic furnishings and appliances to ceramics, glass, electronics, transport design, sporting goods, toys, and graphics, The Value of Good Design explores the democratizing potential of design, beginning with MoMA's Good Design initiatives from the late 1930s through the 1950s, which championed well-designed, affordable contemporary products.
Swift & Anderson, Inc. (Boston, MA, est. 1926). Outdoor Thermometer. Before 1946. Metal, painted metal, and glass, diam. 4 1/8? (10.5 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Lewis & Conger
John R. Carroll (American, 1892–1958). Presto Cheese Slicer. c. 1944. Cast aluminum and steel wire, 4 1/2 × 3 3/4? (11.4 × 9.5 cm). Manufactured by R.A. Frederick Co. (United States). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Edgar Kaufmann, Jr.
The exhibition also raises questions about what Good Design might mean today, and whether values from mid-century can be translated and redefined for a 21st-century audience. Visitors are invited to judge for themselves by trying out a few "good design" classics still in production, and exploring how, through its design stores, MoMA continues to incubate new products and ideas in an international marketplace.
Irwin Gershen (American). Shrimp Cleaner. 1954. Plastic and metal, 8 1/2 × 3 1/4 × 3/4? (21.6 × 8.3 × 1.9 cm). Manufactured by Plastic Dispensers Inc. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Department purchase