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Barr, Jr. and Johnson exhibition on view at Montreal Museum of Fine Arts


May 6, 2016
by Canadian Architect

Philip Johnson (left) and Alfred Barr, Lake Maggiore, Switzerland, April 1933. © The Museum of Modern Art / Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, New York.

Philip Johnson (left) and Alfred Barr, Lake Maggiore, Switzerland, April 1933. © The Museum of Modern Art / Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, New York.

 

Partners in Design: Alfred H. Barr, Jr. & Philip Johnson

An exhibition dedicated to the ambassadors of Modernism in North America

 

Presented at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA), Partners in Design: Alfred H. Barr, Jr., and Philip Johnson spotlights a crucial, though little known, aspect of the development of American modern design: the collaboration between Alfred H. Barr, Jr., (1902‐1981), the first director of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, and Philip Johnson (1906‐2005), MoMA’s first curator of architecture.

Organized by the Liliane and David M. Stewart Program for Modern Design (Montreal) and the MMFA, this exhibition focuses on the contribution of these two visionaries and friends who spread the ideas of the Bauhaus and acquainted North America with modern design and architecture by means of pioneering exhibitions that they organized at MoMA, such as Modern Architecture: International Exhibition (1932) and Machine Art (1934).

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969) Barcelona Chair 1929 (example about 1960) Stainless steel, leather 78.5 x 74 x 76 cm Produced by Knoll International, New York The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, gift of Trevor F. Peck Photo Denis Farley.

Barcelona Chair, 1929 (example about 1960). Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969). Photo by Denis Farley.

Chess Set, Model no. XVI, 1924. Josef Hartwig (1880-1955). Natural and stained pearwood Largest piece: 4.8 x 2.9 x 2.9 cm Produced by The Bauhaus, Weimar, Germany New York, The Museum of Modern Art, gift of Alfred H. Barr, Jr. © Estate of Joseph Hartwig / SODRAC (2016) © The Museum of Modern Art / Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY.

Chess Set, Model no. XVI, 1924. Josef Hartwig (1880-1955).

By putting architecture, design, photography and cinema on an equal footing with the fine arts, Barr, Jr. and Johnson transformed the vocation of museums and the teaching of art throughout the continent, which had become home to numerous European artists and architects between the two wars.

Curated by David A. Hanks, the exhibition traces the development of modern design from Bauhaus up to the influential MoMA exhibitions of the 1930s. It brings together over 70 archival and design objects (furniture, textiles and industrial design products), including 21 from the Liliane and David M. Stewart collection, held today by the MMFA. In addition, it reveals a new MMFA acquisition: a desk by Marcel Breuer, the first commission from the designer in the United States.

Donald Deskey (1894-1989) Dining Set About 1930 Chromium-plated tubular steel, plastic laminate, upholstery Table: 71.8 x 152.5 x 76.2 cm Chairs: 81.4 x 40.6 x 54.4 cm (each) Produced by Ypsilanti Reed Furniture Company, Ionia, Michigan The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Liliane and David M. Stewart Collection, gift of the American Friends of Canada through the generosity of Victoria Barr from the estate of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred H. Barr, Jr. Photo Denis Farley

Dining Set, About 1930, Donald Deskey (1894-1989). Photo Denis Farley

The exhibition also presents some Bauhaus and New Bauhaus pieces, on loan from MoMA, by such people as Marianne Brandt, Josef Hartwig and Wilhelm Wagenfeld. Others, produced by American designers such as Angelo Testa, Ray Eames and Eva Zeisel, are evidence of the new ideas inspired by Barr, Jr., and Johnson in the United States.

“Barr and Johnson followed modernist principles inspired by the Bauhaus. The objects in the exhibition fit that ideal of rational, functional design that was, as Philip Johnson said, ‘characterized by simplicity and governed by utility,’” points out David A. Hanks, Curator of the Stewart Program and the exhibition.

Partners in Design: Alfred H. Barr, Jr., and Philip Johnson is on view at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts until August 21, 2016. 

It will then travel to the Davis Museum in Boston from Sept. 14 to Dec. 18, 2016, the Kunsthalle Bielefeld in Germany in Spring/Summer 2017 and the Grey Art Gallery in New York  from Sept. 7 to Dec. 9, 2017.

For more information, click here.