Academic journal article The Historian

Modern Design and History, 1885-1945

Academic journal article The Historian

Modern Design and History, 1885-1945

Article excerpt

Design has contributed to our perception of the modem world, as a key element in reform movements, an agent of modernity, and a vehicle of propaganda. "The Arts of Reform and Persuasion, 1885-1945," the inaugural exhibition of The Wolfsonian, located in Miami Beach, Florida, examines design at the height of the industrial age in the context of social, technological, political, and aesthetic issues and explores the conscious intent with which the objects were created.(1)

The exhibition's three sections are presented chronologically. For the years from 1885 to 1914, "Confronting Modernity" analyzes the conflicts between those who resisted modernity and those who embraced it. Proponents of the Arts and Crafts movement believed that industrialization had stripped the craftspeople of their individuality. If objects were made by hand, the joy of labor would be restored, and anonymous, shoddy work would be abolished. During the 1920s and 1930s, governments and corporations called on artists to create designs that would help persuade an ambivalent public that new modes of living retained and promoted traditional values while increasing prosperity. "Celebrating Modernity" focuses on how objects and advertising were used to celebrate industrial progress, publicize modern style, and promote social ideas. …

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