Virtual NYC Museum Events – Stars, Cocktails, and Social Discourse

It’s a packed week with over 35 virtual events planned by New York City museums, featuring evenings with celebrities, conversations about society, the future of museums, and even an escape game. Find the daily listings for everything on our virtual events page.

Scandals recounted in the Tenement Museum’s Tuesday YouTube Live book talk

Tomorrow afternoon (January 12) at 6:30pm, the Fraunces Tavern Museum again collaborates with the Keeler Tavern Museum & History Center to explore the role apples played in food, drink, and the economy of colonial and revolutionary America in the continuing “Tavern Tastings” series.

At 7pm, the Tenement Museum hosts Tyler Anbinder, to talk about his book, Five Points: The 19th Century New York City Neighborhood that Invented Tap Dance, Stole Elections, and Became the World’s Most Notorious Slum.

Mystical transformation with St. Francis and the Morgan Library on Wednesday

 At 8pm, travel to the mountains of Arizona with the Newark Museum, whose planetarium experts host an evening of stargazing with Steward Observatory’s Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter.

On Wednesday (January 13) at 2pm, train fans can take a rare trip deep into the Transit Museum archives.

At 5pm, art fans can travel back to the 15th century with the Frick Collection to explore Bellini’s painting St. Francis in the Desert.

At 6:30pm, the Center for Brooklyn History (formerly Brooklyn Historical Society) hosts a discussion and book talk “The Authoritarian’s Playbook,” which links 20th century history with the events of the last week.

AMNH’s Neil deGrasse Tyson will summarize 2020’s important space news on Wednesday. R. Mickens/© AMNH

At 7pm, you’ll have to choose between three equally compelling events:

  • The astronomical year-in-review with Neil de Grasse Tyson at AMNH
  • A talk with David Byrne and Maira Kalman about their new American Utopia book at the Museum of the City of New York
  • The “standing ovation” meet-up at Poster House featuring an array of posters of the world’s most celebrated theatrical performers and five cocktails to match.

    MCNY hosts collaborators David Byrne and Maira Kalman on Wednesday. Photos: Jody Rogac, Cyndi Stivers

On Thursday (January 14) at noon, visit the Salman Toor painting exhibition at the Whitney, and at 3pm, see (and hear about) nature paintings in the collection of the New-York Historical Society.

At 6pm, enjoy a delicious trip to Naples with the Museum of Food and Drink, and dip into the Poster House archives at 6:30pm. At 7pm, join the escape game at the Newark Museum’s historic Ballantine House.

Brian Clarke’s stained glass panels at MAD

There’s more on Friday and Saturday, so register for as many of the topics and events that you can fit into your schedule.

On Saturday at 2pm, be sure to join MAD to meet acclaimed architectural artist Brian Clarke, whose work is on display for the next month. Don’t pass up this chance to encounter a legend and hear about the entire scope of his incredible international body of work.

And a reminder for Sunday (January 17): at 1pm, take a tour of the incredible costume exhibition at the Metropolitan, About Time: Fashion and Duration. Even if you’re in New York, it’s not easy to snag a ticket to this show, so the virtual visit is the next best thing.

Most of the events are free, but it’s always nice to add a thank-you donation.

At MoMA, 1923 Gum department store lightbulb ad by Rodchenko and Mayakovsky’s ad agency

Museum Updates

We visited MoMA this past week for last looks at the Felix Feneon, textile, and Judd exhibitions. The galleries were full of visitors looking at the Parisian posters, African carvings, Seurat and Matisse paintings, Anni’s loom, and Judd’s super-slick sculptures.

As hard as it is to say good-bye to these three terrific shows, we encourage you all to visit the latest at MoMA – Engineer, Agitator, Constructor: The Artist Reinvented.

About Time: Fashion and Duration tour on Sunday

Lots of Russian avant-garde, typography and collage running wild, and branding in the early 20th century that you’ve never seen quite like this.  The extensive exhibition uses many works from the little-seen Berman collection, so you’ll be in for some surprises when you see it.

Although its virtual events are still happening, the Museum of the City of New York has announced a temporarily closure on Fifth Avenue for some emergency construction work.

How Textiles Became Modern at MoMA

1977 Águila Beige (Brown Eagle) by Spanish artist Aurèlia Muñoz

Dramatic fiber sculptures welcome visitors at the entry to MoMA’s modern textile history exhibition, Taking a Thread for a Walk, on view on the third floor through January 10.

When the show initially opened back in 2019, visitors were greeted by Magdalena Abakanowicz’s imposing Yellow Abakan textile sculpture; today, it’s the wall-size Red Marca by Aurèlia Muñoz in its place. Inside the main gallery, Aurèlia’s Brown Eagle spreads out to fill the entire corner. But these fiber sculptures are really the finale to the exhibition’s story.

Yarn, prints, and fabric in Vuillard’s 1896 painting of his mother at home

Your journey through 20th century textile art is fleshed out using MoMA’s unparalleled collection of modern paintings, furniture, posters, film, and ephemera. Every time we’ve visited the exhibition, we’ve observed museum goers who are fully engaged, taking in every detail of the big story told by quiet works – how textile craft transitioned from small-time “women’s work” to statements within the big-time worlds of fine arts, commercial furniture, and interior design.

The first thing you hear upon entering is the clacking sound of a working loom. The sound draws you right toward an actual loom. Nearby, there are fourth-century Coptic textile fragments that were the first textiles to enter MoMA’s collection and a delicate sculpture by Ed Rossbach that echoes weaving’s ancient origins.

1952 loom used by Anni Albers in Connecticut

The pristine loom was used by Anni Albers, who revolutionized how American artists began thinking about, making, and innovating with textiles. In a way, Anni’s educational philosophy is the “thread” that connects nearly every other section in the show – teach students to execute the basics but push them to experiment in unconventional ways.

Using fiber and weaving to “learn by doing” extends back to the 1850s and the beliefs of German early-childhood educator Friedrich Froebel, who suggested that parents and teachers use “playthings” – balls of yarn and colorful weaving slats to spur kids’ creativity. His ideas caught on, with toy manufacturers offering commercial creativity kits. MoMA has 1898 versions from Boston in the show.

Vienna: corner of 1905 tablecloth by Josef Hoffman and Berthold Löffler

Around the same time, the British Arts & Crafts movement and rampant industrialization inspired continental innovators to create new schools and interdisciplinary movements that elevated textile design in the design and art-school hierarchy.

MoMA displays a beautiful tablecloth by Hoffman and Loeffler that exemplifies the design direction Hoffman and colleagues took with the Wiener Werkstätte.  Fabric designs by Elena Izcue are nearby, showing how pre-Columbian textiles served as inspiration for artists and students exploring an “American” design direction.

An entire wall is devoted to the ground-breaking work by Anni Albers and others from the textile workshop at the Bauhaus, led by innovator Gunta Stölzl, who encouraged interdisciplinary students to experiment by incorporating unusual materials, proportions, and colors.

Bauhaus Weaving Workshop: 1923-1924 work by Benita Koch-Otte

A short black-and-white film that takes you inside the workshop is projected next to a dramatic large-scale woven modernist statement by Benita Koch-Otte.

The back wall tells the story of 20th-century textile production and commercialization – a Soviet children’s book to explain how cotton is grown and turned into mass-market fabric, and commercial brochures, posters, and catalogues created by graphic artists who founded branding agencies to help European manufacturers market stylish rugs, draperies, and furniture to buyers.

1964 wall hanging woven by Delores Dembus Bitterman, an Albers student at Yale

Like Anni Albers, many design innovators fled Europe in the Thirties, worked as educators in the United States, and influenced the next generation of textile modernists through Cranbrook, the New Bauhaus in Chicago, and Black Mountain College.

MoMA shows plenty of expressive wall-sized works, fabric-covered modern furniture, and textile room dividers used to stunning effect by architects and interior designers in commercial spaces and open-plan homes in the Fifties and Sixties. A Seventies poster promoting furniture by Knoll reminds you that Brazilian and other Latin American designers were fully on board, too.

Stretch fabric: Bruno Manari’s 1964 hanging lamp and Pierre Paulin’s 1967 Tongue chair

Finally, the story comes back to where it began – liberation for textile artists in the Sixties and Seventies, like Sheila Hicks and others, to create large-scale sculptural work.

Walk through the exhibition with MoMA on its website and look at our favorites in our Flickr album.

To get an idea of how one contemporary master thinks about creating with textiles, here is a short video with Sheila Hicks, featuring her Pillar of Inquiry installation last year for MoMA’s reopening:

No Monolith but Judd’s Works at MoMA Deliver the Power

1968 stainless steel and Plexiglass tower (Froehlich Collection)

For anyone lamenting the disappearance of the Monolith and yearning to experience its minimalist magic, walk through MoMA’s Donald Judd retrospective before January 3 to understand how big, gleaming, super-sleek objects create such electrifying force fields.

Initially, journalists speculated that the Utah Monolith was the work of West Coast artist John McCracken. It wasn’t, but Judd was one of McCracken’s art-world heroes – a master who reveled in pure shape, pure color, and (when he wanted to) pure transparency. Judd also built repeating rectangles (seemingly not created by human hands) in remote western landscapes (Marpha, Texas).

On MoMA’s top floor, you’ll encounter wide, open spaces with spare, clean hard-edged objects inhabiting four galleries.

1964 construction of orange pebbled Plexiglass and hot-rolled steel. Private collection.

In the first room, you’ll see cadmium-red shapes from the early Sixties that Judd made in his Soho studio. The idea was to remove any gestures or evidence of craft in the work – just present the pure painted shape.

But to get the perfection he craved, Judd went one step further – engaging industrial fabricators to create large-scale works from his meticulous drawings. Industrial materials like aluminum, iron, and Plexiglass are transformed into magical rectangles, epic towers, and airy channels. See our favorites in our Flickr album.

In each gallery, visitors are invited to circumnavigate and explore the monumental works. One orange box seems to glow; another has a transparent surface that lets you peer inside. An enticing series of blue and silver boxes seem to let you peek through to an entirely different dimension.

1969 “channel” of aluminum and Plexiglass units (Saint Louis Art Museum)

Towers emerge from walls in each room – neat stacks of monumental rectangles, separated by exact amounts of space. It’s quite a sensation to approach one, look up, and feel its commanding presence. One silver tower seems to be emitting yellow light. A copper tower gleams a little from a subtle spotlight.

Judd wanted it this way – no interpretation. Just you and the large, beautiful, perfect form, as this short video demonstrates:

MoMA cautions visitors to remain at least six feet away from each of the works, but most admirers are cautious and reverent, taking it all in and giving everything its space.

Here, curator Ann Temkin talks about Judd’s work and the joy of bringing such a monumental exhibition to New York:

Take a trip through the installation on MoMA’s website here, and hear artists describe their experience of the show here.

Virtual Visits This Week to the Guggenheim, Whitney, and a 19th Century Irish Home

If you can’t do an in-person trip to your favorite museums just yet, why not walk some terrific exhibitions with curators at the Guggenheim, Merchant’s House, Poster House, the Morgan Library, and the Whitney. The links to this program and other museum events are on our virtual events page here.

Chen Zhen’s 1999 Precipitous Parturition installed inside the Guggenheim in 2017

Some of the highlights we think you’ll enjoy:

Today (November 30) at 5:00pm, visit the Guggenheim for a conversation about art, exhibitions, and installations in the iconic building. The Zoom session will feature works by Hilma af Klint, Felix Gonzales-Torres, and Pipilotti Rist to get the discussion rolling.

At 7:00pm today, join the International Center of Photography to meet photographer and filmmaker Danny Lyon, whose book documenting Lower Manhattan’s architectural past was named one of the best art books of the year by The New York Times.

Hear jazz on The Four Seasons guitars by John Monteleone December 1 at the Met

Tomorrow (December 1) at 7:00pm, you will not want to miss the guitar quartet concert from the Metropolitan Museum’s MetLiveArts. It’s going to feature four  acclaimed jazz guitarists playing the spectacular “Four Seasons” set of guitars made by master luthier John Monteleone, which are currently featured in the finale gallery of the Met’s 150th anniversary spectacular, Making the Met, 1870-2020.

Learn about 19th century lighting inside the Merchant’s House Museum on December 2

Of, if you haven’t had enough of feasting, join the Tenement Museum at the same time to hear from Leah Koenig about making holiday treats and her book Little Book of Jewish Sweets.

On Wednesday (December 2) at 6:00pm, take a trip back to the past with Merchant’s House Museum to experience 19th-century domestic lighting and talk about how home lighting has changed in the last 100 years.

Artists Kay WalkingStick and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith discuss contemporary art at NMAI on December 3

Thursday (December 3) events include:

A 6:00pm discussion of contemporary art at the Museum of the American Indian with Kay WalkingStick and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith.

At 6:30pm, an evening at Poster House that provides an insider’s look at collecting Swiss posters.

Photographers of Brooklyn’s Kamoinge Workshop, honored in the Whitney’s new show

At 7pm, a curator’s tour of the Whitney’s latest exhibition about the photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop in Brooklyn.

On Friday (December 4), get over to the Morgan Library at 12:30pm for a collections tour, and to MAD Museum at 3:00pm for a program on film-title design.

We’re particularly excited about the special free program that the Tenement Museum is hosting next Saturday (December 5) at 1pm with I.NY, a virtual celebration of connection between Ireland and New York, featuring a tour of an Irish family’s home on the Lower East Side in 1860 and a discussion with the University of Limerick’s Professor David Coughlan.

Visit the Moore family home with the Tenement Museum and I.NY on December 5

Many more programs are on the schedule, so register for as many of the topics and events that you can fit into your schedule.

Most of the events are free, but it’s always nice to add a thank-you donation.

Museum Updates

Just a reminder that MoMA has just reinstalled its permanent collection in its new building. When the museum re-opened a year ago, the intent was to keep its collection moving, with refreshed galleries several times a year.  Be sure to visit and see what’s new!

 

Anarchist Revolutionizes Modern Art at MoMA

1890 pointillist portrait of Fénéon by Paul Signac

He wasn’t an artist, but MoMA has given him a show that has everything – joyous post-Impressionist canvases, Moulin Rouge posters, color wheels, African masterworks, Italian futurists, street riots, manifestos, explosions, and mug shots. 

Félix Fénéon: The Anarchist and the Avant-Garde – From Signac to Matisse and Beyond, an exhibition on view through January 2, will introduce you to a writer, critic, anarchist, and dealer living in turn-of-the-century Paris who championed Seurat, gave Matisse his start, coined the term neo-Impressionism, and went to jail for a few months after he was accused of setting off a bomb in a restaurant frequented by government big shots.

1891 painting by Paul Signac, Setting Sun, Sardine Fishing, Adagio, Opus 221

This gorgeous show was inspired by Signac’s pointillist portrait of Fénéon, which features swirling color wheels referencing their shared passion for Japanese design, pattern, and the science behind art. Books and ephemera by influential color theorists are displayed nearby, but it’s hard to keep your attention there when paintings by so many modernist masters are vying for your attention around every turn.

1894 Bonnard poster for the avant-garde journal Fénéon edited

Fénéon used his critical bullhorn to turn many artists into household names. Think Seurat and Signac, two of Fénéon’s early favorites. The first gallery is full of their beautiful seascapes and figurative work. Read the curator’s essay about the artists he promoted, and see our favorites in our Flickr album.

The curators let us know that these peaceful images and exuberant dance-hall posters were made at a time of serious social unrest and profound economic hardship for working-class Parisians by interspersing Fénéon politics-charged writings and socially conscious works by Vallottin and Pissarro.  Disruptive protests, nightlife, zines, and art all went hand-in-hand during the 1890s.

1905-1906 painting by Matisse Interior with a Young Girl (Girl Reading)

Fénéon spent several years as the editor-in-chief of a leading avant-garde journal, orchestrating contributors such as Bonnard, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Vallotton, and collecting their work along the way.  So, it came as quite a shock to everyone when the independent critic announced that he was taking a full-time job with a prestigious but conservative gallery in Paris.

Entering the second gallery of the exhibition, you see immediately how Fénéon used his notoriety and avant-garde chops to build up a contemporary art business and lure old-line clients into taking a chance on something new and modern.  He signed contracts with artists he had long championed, and gave an up-and-comer named Henri Matisse his first show in 1910.

Late 19th-c mask by a Guro artist from Cote d’Ivoire with 1920 Bonnard. Private collection; Musee d’Orsay.

It’s exciting to see a room full Matisse’s early work (including three that were in that initial show) and work by other artists that Fénéon both collected and sold, including a wall full of ethereal Seurat drawings.

Like many others in the avant-garde, Fénéon was a passionate collector of art from Africa and Oceana, and it’s thrilling to see so much of his original collection – now scattered throughout the world – reassembled inside MoMA.

Fénéon hated colonialism and railed against calling this portion of his collection “primitive art.” He lamented that the names of the artists who created such dynamic, inventive work were unknown and disliked having such evocative pieces relegated to ethnographic museums. 

19th-c cap by Tin Dama artist from Papua New Guinea (Musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac) and Balla’s 1910-1911 futurist work.

He hoped that one day “art from faraway places” could take its place in the art pantheon right up there with works in the Louvre.

It’s satisfying to examine dramatic, powerful sculptures and masks from Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, and Democratic Republic of the Congo against the backdrop of Modigliani, Matisse, and Italian Futurist paintings.

The worlds of ancient mythic power, modernism, and emotive color seem to be spending their time at MoMA having an active conversation – just the way Fénéon would have wanted.

Enjoy MoMA’s fast-pace introduction to this revolutionary modernist:

And now meet MoMA director Glenn Lowry and Starr Figura, curator of the exhibition, who show works from the exhibition and discuss why they mounted this show:

If you can’t get to MoMA, listen to the audio guide here, and enjoy the “colors”  playlist that MoMA designed.

Amy Sillman Gets Shapes to Talk at MoMA

1957 Arp sculpture and view of works by Leger, Frankenthaler and Bonticou

A big, red blob on the fifth floor at MoMA is the welcome sign to one of the most engaging exhibitions in New York ­– the come-hither array of modern artworks in the latest Artist’s Choice show, Amy Sillman: The Shape of Shape, on display through October 4.

But here’s the catch for MoMA visitors – the show has more than 75 works but no labels, no identification, no dates. Just the clue that Amy chose works to explore the role of “shape” in modern art. Small artworks are arranged knee-level on risers (kind of like stadium seating), with larger paintings tilted against the wall.  A few are hung in the traditional way, but it feels as if MoMa’s collection is looking at you and hankering for a conversation. Check it out in our Flickr album.

Rectilinear frame conversation between 1989 Albert Oehlen painting and 1935 “Construction” by Gertrude Green

In our first visit back to the re-opened MoMA, visitors circulated through the room, looking intensively, talking about what they saw, and discussing how pieces might be connected. Although the gallery guide was available via QR code, no one during our visit appeared to seek it out. Everyone seemed quite content to parachute into 110 years of modern visuals and just go for the ride.

What did Amy choose? Abstracted forms, organic shapes, human bodies, and not-bodies – all arranged in a way that makes you feel that one is somehow related to its neighbor. You can’t quite describe why the entire room felt like a tight ensemble, even though one piece might feel like fun and the next a little scary.

It was interesting how unsettled visitors felt by 1970s works by Christina Ramburg and Julian Schnabel. This is exactly what Amy was going for, according to what we overheard her tell students in the gallery yesterday. She wanted to evoke the anxious feelings that most artists experience as they paint, draw, and sculpt and to reflect the times today without being didactic.

Along the east wall – 2008 acrylic by Charline von Heyl, 1920 Arp sculpture, and 1976 drawing by Jay DeFeo

Amy came of age during the Seventies when museums and intellectuals had given abstract expressionism its “heroic” status and crowned minimalists and conceptual artists as successors in the march of modernism. For this Artist’s Choice exhibition, Amy examined MoMA’s vast archive from a different perspective, looking at famous and not-so-famous creators whose work evoked myths, an interest in shadows, tension, anxiety, bodies, and whimsey.

Shadowy Black figures in a dark painting by Zimbabwean artist Thomas Mukarobgwa are echoed by a shadowy figure in a work by Leger. The tiny 1920 stacked Arp sculpture seems to be playing a “Mini-Me” role next to the large, layered 2008 Charline von Heyl acrylic.

Shadows also play key roles in a Lois Lane painting paired with a Kirschner wooduct. See for yourself and make a connection. Download Amy’s zine here to learn more about the works she chose and how she installed them. (She designed it during the quarantine months when the show was shut down.)

Here’s a short overview of the show hosted by MoMA painting/sculpture curator Michelle Kuo:

But you should really dig into the in-depth conversation (with over 10,000 views!) between Amy and Michelle, if you’ve ever been to art school or painted. They talk about art making, art history, Amy’s inspiration from Munch’s little-known litho of a woman hugging a bear, and the way she chose lesser-known works that could have a conversation with you in 2020:

More on MoMA’s reopening
MoMA on 53rd Street is open every day with timed ticketing, and now that the free-ticket offer has concluded, it seems easy to find a time to visit. The Queens outpost at P.S.1 is open until 8:00pm Thursday through Sunday, and is currently showing the acclaimed (and long-anticipated exhibition) Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration through April 4.

Join Live Virtual Events at NYC Museums

Tour “Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara” at The Met this week

Are you missing your favorite New York museums? We’re happy to report that many of the cultural powerhouses, like the Whitney, The Met, and MoMA have reopened, although timed tickets in the opening weeks have been a little hard to get.

There’s a quick and easy way to get inside, however, by attending one of the live virtual programs being offered.  Check out our new page on events! As you can see, there’s a lot of opportunities to connect.

1929 “Calla Lily Vendor” by Alfredo Ramos Martinez in The Whitney’s must-see exhibition “Vida Americana”

New York museums have been keeping their events going online, and joining in is a great way to meet curators, docents, tour some blockbuster shows, and join in on the discussions happening around town about art and the social-justice movement (past and present), women’s issues and history, and even listen to ETHEL play classical music from the virtual Met balcony on Friday night.

For smaller museums, the virtual events have been a great way to broaden programming to a national or international audience.  In recent on-line programs produced by Fraunces Tavern, it’s been nice to see colonial history buffs from Virginia and New England join in on the discussion. At last week’s New York Transit Museum’s talk on the 20th Century Limited, a few UK railroad enthusiasts joined in the chat room!

Hear about the preservation of Washington and Hamilton’s hangout, Fraunces Tavern, one of NYC’s oldest buildings this week

So, it’s a great way to be in the virtual room where it’s happening with others who love history and conversation as much as you do!  Take a look at the array of topics and events and register.

Most of the events are free, although after the months-long shut down here, it’s always nice to give a thank-you donation.

Reopening Update

This week, we’ll welcome the opening of the Guggenheim and Jewish Museum along Fifth Avenue and the International Center of Photography at its new home on Essex on the Lower East Side, where the Tenement Museum has begun neighborhood walking tours again.

Welcome back!!

Enjoy this beautiful four-hour meditative Met Live Arts performance by Lee Mingwei and Bill T. Jones at The Met this week

MoMA Activates Sensory Landscape Daily

Large moveable sculpture covered in tiny bells

MoMA’s open again, and as the sun comes down daily, a sparkling, tinkling, gleaming landscape created by Korean multimedia artist Haegue Yang comes alive in the Museum of Modern Art’s multistory atrium.

Giant, stylized animalistic sculptures glide across the space, carefully guided by a black-clad dozen performers who appear every day at 4 p.m. for the one-hour activation.

Handles is a dreamscape world, where six large sculptural pieces inhabit an atrium enlivened by reflective biomorphic shapes climbing playfully up the walls.

When the performers move them, the giant sculptures, sheathed in a neat layer of bells, subtly chime to a soundtrack of tweeting birds and a tranquil symphony. Magic that soothes museum goers into a contemplative state.

A team of performers activate the installation daily

The piece reflects Haegue’s growing interest in using choreography and sound to build a sensory experience for art viewers. Gradually, she’s incorporated performers moving in geometric patterns, pulling oversized sculptures across and around the space, in a modern take on utopian Triadic Ballet-style movement.

Environmental phenomenon, geopolitical stresses, and modern art pioneers all factor into her work. Read MoMA’s interview with her here.

There’s plenty of time to see Handles, which will be activated for MoMA visitors through April 12, 2020.

See more photos of the installation on Flickr and watch a few moments of the performance here.

When the Avant-Garde Took over Corporate Branding

Entrance to the show at Bard Graduate Gallery

With the world turned upside down by World War I, artists in the European avant-garde eagerly embraced new ways of looking, thinking, and creating.

Museum-goers are familiar with the innovative edge that Constructivism and Bauhaus thinking brought to painting and architecture, but few realize it extended so directly into corporate identity and industrial sales in those post-war years.

Bard Graduate Center tells this previously untold story through a young man’s collection who was at the center of it all in its exhibition, Jan Tschichold and the New Typography: Graphic Design Between the World Wars, on display through July 7.

Cover of 1923 Bauhaus exhibition catalog by Herbert Bayer. Courtesy: MoMA.

Recent grad Jan Tschichold, a talented young typeface designer calligrapher steeped in the art of fifteenth-century letterforms, took a quick trip to the Bauhaus in 1923 and was blown away by what he saw coming out of the print shop and the minds of artists at the interdisciplinary hothouse.

Being a works-on-paper kind of guy, Jan was entranced by the book designs and letterheads – modern san serif letters, asymmetrical page layouts, and letters used as design elements on the page. In particular, he saw an essay by Moholy-Nagy that coined the term “new typography”.

El Lissitzky’s 1920 children’s book About Two Squares, which teaches post-revolutionary ideals through interactions of abstract shapes. Courtesy: MoMA.

These rule-based design principles clearly appealed to him, and Jan soon began corresponding, organizing, sharing, and exhibiting with an energetic network of innovators like Schwitters, Moholy-Nagy, and El Lissitzky. Starting in 1925, Jan was the most vocal proponent of this “new typography.”

“Graphic design” was starting to become a “thing” and Jan found himself in the center of it. Jan began collecting anything with asymmetrical layouts, eye-catching photo-montages, and letters running wild — postcards, catalogues, book designs, business cards, brochures, promotional catalogs, and posters.

By 1928, Jan had seen and designed so much ground-breaking work that he decided to write a book that would summarize how any graphic-arts practitioner could blow up past conventions of graphic design, letters, and photography and repurpose them for industries and pop culture.

Title page of Jan Tschichold’s 1928 book, “The New Typgraphy,” which had essays by Moholy-Nagy, Dexel, and others.

Jan’s book, Typographische Gestaltung, went viral among the 80,000 members of the German print workers union, showing everyone how to juice up advertising layouts, movie posters, and industrial brochure designs in a more modern way.

German industries were just beginning to make a comeback after the war. Brochures about pumps, valves, and machinery all had a modern twist that created an identity for corporations to make a comeback. Inexpensive designs on paper — what a way to make a statement! What a way to glamorize and sell ergonomic chairs, new motorcycle engines, lathes, and metal parts!

“Dwelling and Workplace” poster – an event identity campaign by Johannes Molzhan for the 1929 exhibition by Deutscher Werkbund, the German design association. Courtesy: MoMA

Curator Paul Stirton’s show shines a spotlight on this early move toward modern corporate branding, identity, industrial brochures, and the day-to-day business of simply selling things. Just like today, even avant-garde designers had to make a living!

One of our favorites is Dadaist-in-chief Kurt Schwitters’ marketing brochure to explain his design agency’s services for corporate logos, brochures, and and other types of design.

Eventually, Hungarian and Czech designers started adopting what Jan was advocating. His influence largely bypassed the United States and the English-speaking world (except by osmosis), since it took decades for his book to be translated into English.

1930 marketing brochure by Kurt Schwitters to potential corporate clients. Courtesy: MoMA

Perhaps one of the most intriguing features of this show is that nearly everything on display is from Jan’s own collection, which is labeled as in the Museum of Modern Art’s collection. But ironically, much of the corporate marketing stuff on display here (and seen for the first time!) almost didn’t survive.

Jan amassed acres of his colleagues’ work in the Twenties, but had to leave the majority of his collection behind when he fled Germany in the run-up to World War II and ultimately landed in the United States.

Strapped for cash, Jan happily sold his poster collection to MoMA in the 1930s, but in the 1950s, MoMA said no to the rest of Jan’s remaining collection. Who needed that much work on paper from the Twenties when you were collecting wall-sized post-war American abstraction?

Jan Tschichold’s 1927 movie poster “The Woman Without a Name,” for Berlin’s Pheobus-Palast.

When Philip Johnson heard that MoMA refused to take Jan’s letters, catalogs, books, postcards, and other ephemera from Europe’s greats, he tracked down the California bookseller who acquired it, paid $350 for 800 pieces, and donated it to MoMA.

So, although MoMA’s closed for the summer, you can still see a capsule collection by a 20th century innovator that’s never been displayed as a whole before.

Take a look at our favorites on Flickr and watch the curator’s talk here.

MoMA Signs Off with Brancusi

Brancusi’s 1930s marble Fish

MoMA is taking a four-month break while it reinstalls its collection in its expanded 53rd Street home. For nearly a year before it closed its doors, MoMA provided a beautiful gathering space devoted to a much-loved modern master in a beautiful show Constantin Brancusi Sculpture.

Always packed with admirers, you could frequently hear visitors that turned the corner and entered the gallery exclaim, “Wow!”

There they all were – Brancusi’s marble The Fish sculpture that seemed to be swimming, the soaring Bird in Space, and the primal tall oak Endless Column.

1910 marble Maiastra, a mythical Romanian bird with a pedestal created from another sculpture

Everything was drawn from MoMA’s expansive collection. Every viewpoint joyfully represented what contemporary audiences love about Brancusi’s work. View it in our Flickr album.

Hard to believe that the epic Maiastra was created in 1910 or that this innovator grew up as a woodworker in the rural Romanian countryside and walked across the continent to relocate to Paris to be where the early modernist practice and philosophy were percolating.

For a fun look at how it all began for Mr. Brancusi, watch the film that MoMA created using footage shot by his buddy, Man Ray here and also listen to a jazzy playlist of Brancusi’s favorite songs and atonal orchestral hits of the day.

Brancusi’s work is the epitome of Modern to the contemporary eye, but it wasn’t always that way. One of the most beloved pieces in the room was initially considered a blasphemy to art when it was first exhibited in the 1913 Armory Show in New York.

Listen to MoMA tell the story:

MoMA on 53rd Street reopens on October 21. MoMA PS1 in Long Island City remains open.