The Brooklyn Museum has been at the forefront of collecting Italian twentieth century design since the mid 1950s. One pivotal event made consumers in the United States aware of the diversity and accomplishments of modern Italian design and initiated the collecting of this material at the Museum—the exhibition Italy at Work, which traveled to twelve venues between 1950 and 1954. The exhibition was initiated by the Art Institute of Chicago in partnership with two organizations devoted to the promulgation of Italian design, Handicraft Development Incorporated in the United States and its corresponding institution in Italy, CADMA. Italy at Work included hundreds of objects by more than 150 artisans and manufacturers and featured furniture, ceramics, glass, textiles, metalwork, jewelry, shoes, knit clothing, and industrial design. The exhibition opened at the Brooklyn Museum, and at its conclusion, when the objects were dispersed among the host institutions, the lion’s share, more than two hundred items, came to the Museum.
Some of the objects on view here have not been seen since 1954 when Italy at Work closed, such as the mosaic by Gino Severini and the table by Paolo di Poli. In addition, some of the more recently acquired works are having their debut Museum installation here as well, such as the chairs by Alberto Meda, Ettore Sottsass, Jr., and Joe Columbo.