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.
In 1988 Dr. Harwood joined the Brooklyn Museum and now oversees its highly regarded Decorative Arts holdings. Among the exhibitions and installations he has organized are From the Village to Vogue: The Modernist Jewelry of Art Smith, on view through May 2009, The Furniture of George Hunzinger, Tiffany Glass and Lamps at the Brooklyn Museum, Twentieth-Century Design from the Permanent Collection, The Aesthetic Movement, and was a co-curator of American Identities: A New Look. The recipient of a BA from Brandeis University, Dr. Harwood was awarded an MFA from Princeton University, where he also received a PhD. Since 1991 Harwood has been Adjunct Professor at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum/Parsons Masters Program in the History of Decorative Arts. He is the author of numerous scholarly publications, such as the catalogue The Furniture of George Hunzinger: Invention and Innovation in the 19th-Century, for which he received the Publication and Exhibition Award from the Victorian Society in America, Metropolitan Chapter. Barry was a charter member of the Pee Wee Fun Club.