Someone’s in the Kitchen: Culinary Design Objects from the Collection presents the inventive approaches by industrial designers who created culinary objects for the home in the latter half of the 20th century. Organized by function—measuring, mixing, heating, and storage—the exhibition includes 35 bowls, utensils, cookware, containers, and other objects made from materials ranging from conventional stainless steel and cast iron to cutting edge polypropylene and thermoplastic resin. On view from April 22 through September in the Museum’s Modern and Contemporary Design Gallery (170), Someone’s in the Kitchen looks at the innovations of designers like Joe Colombo, Morrison S. Cousins, Phillipe Starck, and others who have taken creative approaches to traditionally utilitarian objects.
“Since the 1940s no room has been as thoroughly re-imagined as the kitchen,” says Donna Corbin, Associate Curator of Decorative Arts. “Changes in technology, materials, and lifestyle after World War II transformed the home into a new canvas for designers. The kitchen was no longer simply a place to cook but also a place to gather, entertain, and experience being at home.”Numerous highlights demonstrate designers’ responses to the emergence of new materials and technology. Among them are “One-Touch” Canisters (1991) and Double Colander (1992), both by the Tupperware Corporation, whose revolutionary approach to materials and marketing have made it a household name since the 1940s. Also on view are the colorful “Margrethe” nesting bowls, designed by Acton Bjørn and Sigvard Bernadotte in 1950, among the earliest examples of plastic kitchenwares produced in Scandinavia.
Some works speak to the increasing informality of modern lifestyle and the growing importance of ease of use. Wilhelm Wagenfeld designed his pressed-glass Kubus storage containers (1938) to be attractive enough to go from the refrigerator to the dining room table, and OXO International, the company that produces the “Good Grips” Kitchen Utensils, was founded by Sam Farber when he noticed that his wife who suffered from arthritis was having difficulty peeling a potato. Also featured is Joe Colombo’s innovative Mini-kitchen (1963), a compact unit on wheels that contains a range, a refrigerator, drawers, a cutting board, a can opener, and a knife box, all in about one cubic yard, addressing the issue of smaller, multi-functional living spaces.
About the Modern and Contemporary Design Collection
The Museum’s collection of Modern and Contemporary Design includes over 1000 mass-produced, limited series, and unique works from 1900 to the present.
Among the Bauhaus and Art Deco objects from the 1920s and ‘30s are examples of furniture by Emile–Jacques Ruhlmann, Mies van der Rohe and Marcel Breuer. Objects from the 1940s and ‘50s display economy of means and materials as seen in the furniture of Charles and Ray Eames, George Nelson’s ever-popular ‘Marshmallo’ Sofa, and Russel Wright’s ‘American Modern’ dinnerware. From the 1960s and ‘70s, the Museum has an important collection of innovative Italian designs that highlight new forms and the pervasive use of plastic, including Joe Colombo’s futuristic Living Center and similarly inventive objects from other countries, such as the British Clive Sinclair’s miniature Executive Calculator.
More recent designs shift to Postmodern and Postindustrial styles from the 1980s to the present, including Apple’s ubiquitous yet revolutionary iMac Computer, many prime examples of Ingo Maurer’s lighting fixtures, and Stephen Hobday’s accessible Single-Handed Keyboard. Acquisitions from the 21st century demonstrate unconventional uses of materials, including Tokujin Yoshioka’s ‘Honey-Pop’ Chair made of 120 sheets of paper, and Jasper Morrison’s cork Stool.
The collection is steadily built with the support of COLLAB, a nonprofit organization of Philadelphia-area design professionals. Each fall, Collab presents its prestigious annual Design Excellence Award—which is accompanied by an installation—to a design professional who has made a significant contribution to the field. COLLAB also promotes public understanding and appreciation of contemporary design through its educational initiatives, including sponsorship of symposia, lectures, tours, and a citywide, college-level student design competition.
The Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building
The collections of Modern and Contemporary Design will see a dramatic increase in gallery space when the Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman building opens in 2007. A new gallery on the first floor will contain rotating exhibitions of one of the country’s foremost collections of 20th century design, which now includes over 1000 objects ranging from appliances and furniture to ceramics, glass, and lighting.
Easily accessible from the Perelman Building entrance, the COLLAB Gallery for Modern and Contemporary Design will be one of three major exhibition spaces to be located in the building’s new addition that is joined to the original building by a soaring sky lit galleria. Equipped with flexible wall partitions and finished with polished, hardwood floors, the COLLAB gallery will enable the curators to present two to three exhibitions each year, including installations devoted to the work of individual designers.