In the renovated Decorative Arts gallery – on the fourth floor of the Brooklyn Museum in New York – the works selected from its impressive collection composed of over 30,000 objects provide an adventurous voyage through history, with handmade one-of-a-kind items and industrial innovations.
Organized in 16 sections, the exhibition “Design: 1880 to Now” is not arranged in strictly chronological order, but approaches urgent themes through unusual groupings, expressing concepts of cultural appropriation and global trade, the tensions between craftsmanship and industrialization, equity and diversification.
Following a Eurocentric narrative, with a particular focus on the influence of Chinese and Japanese culture on the European decorative arts, the curator Aric Chen puts the accent on creative currents like the Arts and Crafts movement, from Great Britain to the United States, the “Modern Luxury” of French Art Deco, the Machine Age with a focus on feminine design. The show also explores the influence of the modern, epitomized by materials like steel tubing, in the section “From Bicycles to the Bauhaus,” or plywood in “Democratizing Design in the Mid-Twentieth Century.”
The section “Seeing America through the Century Vase” is a tribute to the legendary Afro-American neighborhood that is the location of the Brooklyn Museum, a celebration of a cultural melting pot, narrated through two contrasting works: the iconic vase with the portrait of George Washington dating back to 1876 by Karl H.L. Mueller, and the vase by Robert Longo made in 2019, an emblem of a complex, diversified American seen from the perspective of Brooklyn.
Design: 1880 to Now
Brooklyn Museum – New York
Exhibition curated by Aric Chen