Before it Was Cool: Modern at NYSID
by Larry Weinberg | Monday, October 31, 2011
“What Modern Was” was the working title of an exhibition held 20 years ago at the Montreal Museum of Decorative Arts that helped codify and fuel interest in the design and decorative art of the period 1935-1965. “Modern in the Past Tense: Revisiting a Landmark Exhibition,” a tribute to the Montreal show, opened last Wednesday evening at the New York School of Interior Design (NYSID).
Curated by Judith Gura, and designed by architect and designer Ali Tayer, the exhibition looks back at the moment in the early 1990’s when mid-century modernism was being rediscovered and reintroduced both to the market and the larger cultural community. Participants in a panel discussion kicking off the show included curators David Hanks and Martin Eidelberg, jointly responsible for the Montreal exhibit; dealer Mark McDonald, who sold items in the original show and lent to the present show; Ali Tayer; and Ulysses Dietz, curator at the Newark Museum.
“Modern in the Past Tense” focuses our attention on three decades of creative activity that still resonates. In the center of the room, on plywood platforms, surrounded by walls painted by a Corbusier-influenced shade of gray, are eight vintage chairs, a nest of tables, and a screen featured in the original catalog. Representing work by Charles Eames, Donald Knorr, Hans Wegner, Greta Jalk, Bruno Mathsson, Franco Albini, George Nelson, Arne Jacobsen and Gio Ponti, these pieces anchored the new exhibition in the older one, while simultaneously suggesting the visual excitement of mid-century creation, 90’s rediscovery, and contemporary usage.
“Modern in the Past Tense” involved the efforts of NYSID staff, graduate students, and students. It is on display through January 12, 2012 at the New York School of Interior Design, 170 East 70th Street, New York.