On View: Decorative Art, 20th-Century Decorative Arts, 4th Floor
Today when we think of where inventive contemporary design
is manufactured, we often think of Italy. This, however, was not
always the case. Wide acceptance of modern design came
somewhat later in Italy than elsewhere, perhaps because of the
ever-present conservative influence of the palpable Roman classical past and the slow development of the Italian economy
in the twentieth century. To be sure, before World War II there
were important modern designers in Italy, foremost Gio Ponti,
an architect from Milan whose influence spread beyond his
native country through two architecture and design magazines he
founded, Domus and Stile. And the Fascist regime of Mussolini in
the pre-World War II period did embrace modern architecture,
unlike the Nazi regime in Germany, which consciously rejected
modernism as a source of foreign, moral corruption. It was not,
however, until the post-World War II era, when the Italian economy
expanded rapidly, that Italian modern design achieved international recognition.
One pivotal event made consumers in the United States aware
of the diversity and accomplishments of modern Italian design—the exhibition Italy at Work, which travelled 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.
In the second half of the twentieth century, Italy became a
center for modern design. Many foreigners went there to study
and work at small, adventurous firms that produced high-quality objects.
Maple plywood, glass, brass
20 1/2 x 47 1/2 x 21 1/4 in. (52.1 x 120.7 x 54 cm) (show scale)
Gift of the Italian Government
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Carlo Mollino (Italian, 1905-1973). Tea Table, ca. 1949. Maple plywood, glass, brass, 20 1/2 x 47 1/2 x 21 1/4 in. (52.1 x 120.7 x 54 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Italian Government, 54.64.231a-c. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 54.64.231a-c_edited_SL1.jpg)
overall, 54.64.231a-c_edited_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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Tea table (a), maple plywood and glass. One continuous sheet of plywood curved in "S" shape with irregular ovals cut out of it, the longest opening below the center of the table. Two removable (b,c) clear glass shelves, both of irregularly oblong outline: the larger resting on top of the wood form, the other inserted below as second half.
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