In New York: How Should We Live? Propositions for the Modern Interior at MoMA

Since the Department of Architecture and Design was established in the early 1930s, the Museum’s curators have firmly believed in the power of design to shape everyday experiences and perceptions. Eternal focus remains upon the vital question, ‘How should we live?’

With this proposition in mind, The Museum of Modern Art set out to examine a range of different environments – domestic interiors, exhibition displays, and retail spaces.

What resulted is a dynamic study of the complex collaborative partnerships, materials, and processes that have shaped the modernist interior. How Should We Live? focuses on specific interior spaces from the 1920s to the 1950s, and takes a complete look at the design elements within each setting and the direct link with the attitudes of the times—aesthetic, social, technological, and political, whether by material and spatial form.

How Should We Live? will examine the direct link between design elements and the attitudes of the times – aesthetics, social change, technology and politics.

The exhibit will be divided into three chronological groupings; the late 1920s to the early 1930s, the late 1930s to the mid-1940s and the late 1940s into the 1950s.

With recent acquisitions by the Department of Architecture and Design of work by major women architect-designersthe exhibition will look at several designers’ own living spaces as well as frequently neglected areas in the field of design: textile furnishings, wallpapers, kitchens, temporary exhibitions, and promotional displays.

Reich, Lilly

Featured exhibition partnerships include Lilly Reich and Mies van der Rohe, Grete Lihotzky and Ernst May, Eileen Gray and Jean Badovici, Aino and Alvar Aalto, Charles and Ray Eames, Florence Knoll and Herbert Matter, and Charlotte Perriand and Le Corbusier.

Over 200 objects highlight a number of large-scale interiors, including Lihotzky’s Frankfurt Kitchen (1926–27), Reich and Mies’s Velvet and Silk Café (1927), and Perriand and Le Corbusier’s study bedroom from the Maison du Brésil (1959).

Related Courses:

Function, Form, and Reform in the Modern Home

17, 24, 31 October and 7 November or  19 & 26 October and 9 & 16 November 

Interior design is part of our everyday lives. How often do we pause to consider the spaces we inhabit, how they look, how we live in them, and how they came to be designed in a certain way? This course examines the history of modern design in the home, and the ways in which meaning has been ascribed to domestic interior design as it evolved from the early days of industrialization to the present day.

What Is Modernism?

10 & 17 November and 1 & 8 December

What is modernism? What does it mean to be modern? More than a historical period or series of art movements, modernity is a mode of experience fueled by scientific discoveries, industrialization, urbanization, mass media, political revolution, and capitalist systems. Modern life is also contradictory, creating unimagined wealth and unspeakable poverty, utopian ambitions and total nihilism, freedom and oppression. To be modern is to embrace perpetual change and ambiguity. This cross-disciplinary course explores painting, sculpture, architecture, and design through four critical lenses that frame modern life and modern art: authenticity, rupture, utopia, and the avant-garde. The goal is to ask questions and grapple with complexities rather than seek definitive answers.

Reich, Lilly

How Should We Live? Propositions for the Modern Interior is open now until 23 April 23, 2017 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

A selection of Gallery Sessions, Family Art Workshops and related programs like New York Textile Month will coincide with the  exhibition.

Need to Know:

  • MoMA is in midtown Manhattan, New York City, at 11 West Fifty-third Street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues. How Should We Live? is located in the Third Floor Galleries.
  • Hours & Admission

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Pictured at top: Installation image of “How Should We Live? Propositions for the Modern Interior” at MoMA

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