Thursday, September 20, 2012

Discovering Our Inner Child at MOMA

Here we are, playing with our Barbies at the Museum of Modern Art.  The table is so wide our Barbies had to shout at each other to be heard.

An exhibition of design for children isn't the first thing one would expect to see at an art museum, but MOMA has an extensive and highly innovative design collection - as anyone who has seen the outsized Sikorsky helicopter suspended in the atrium can tell you. Can we just briefly say: YOU SHOULD GO! We probably can't describe this wonderful exhibition any better than it is described in the catalogue, so we're just going to quote from the opening paragraph:

"Designers of the modern period have done some of their most innovative work with children in mind. Century of the Child: Growing by Design 1900 - 2000 brings together an unprecedented collection of objects and concepts from around the world to investigate the fascinating confluence of modern design and childhood. The wide-ranging ideas described here - from the beginning of the kindergarten movement to wartime propaganda, from design for children with disabilities to innovations in playground design - illuminate how progressive design has shaped the physical, intellectual, and emotional development of children and, conversely, how models of children's play and pedagogy have inspired designers' creative experimentation." 

The Edith Ann-sized table and chairs above give you some idea of the experience to come. Also just before you walk in is a fabulous video clip of this little boy (below) on this amazing motorized hoop. The little boy goes along so quickly that an adult (his father?) has to run to try to keep up with him. Wouldn't anyone want one of these?


The exhibition includes one of the first animated cartoons ever made, Gertie the Dinosaur, which dates back to 1912. Here she is wolfing down a tree. The internet has everything these days, so click here for more information on Gertie.


There was no way to take a good photo of this, but it's probably the only time a Gustav Klimt masterpiece will be juxtaposed with a set of children's toys, so we had to memorialize it.

We LOVED these building blocks that made a factory! A great way to relate play to reality, and interest a child in the world around him/her. (Some of Lyonel Feininger's expressionist children's blocks, in the shape of houses, churches, and other parts of the cityscape, are also on view.)

This child's closet was designed by Giacomo Balla in 1918. The label reads, in part: ... Balla viewed design for children as an important part of the Futurist mission to reconstruct society...", so children were seen as having an important role in life.


Many people are familiar with Gerrit Rietveld’s iconic ‘red blue chair’, but here is a wonderful toy wheelbarrow he designed for children in a very similar vein.


The clean lines and bright red of this children's table and chair set would look great in any modern home, even though they're now close to 100 years old.


A modernist high chair.

This 1938 doll's house, labled "ultra modern" in its day, has great Bauhaus lines.


Next to it, modernist doll house furniture of the period.

World-renowned designer Gio Ponti designed this child's glass desk in 1939.


Equally renowned sculptor Isamu Noguchi designed this playground. (If you come to see the MOMA show, carve out some time to visit The Noguchi Museum, just a few subway stops away.)


The lines on this child's bentwood school desk are amazing, and frame the school experience in a completely different way.


Moving into more modern times, that the two of us can remember, here is Barbie's Dream House, complete with a prominently featured framed picture of Ken.


The furniture was fabulous and the toys were amazing. This Schylling Mechanical Planet Robot was one of our favorites. It comes in black with red shoes and in red with black shoes (shown here) and uses a metal key to wind it up. We picked up one in black (natch!) at the MOMA gift shop and just are wondering when he'll try to make a move on one of the Barbies! (Stay tuned for future appearances by those crazy Barbies!)

Here, unfortunately, is where we were told that we were actually not allowed to take pictures. We sometimes take photos on the sly, but we took these in full view of everyone, believing them allowed (as they often are at MOMA, without flash). So we can't show you the fabulous space suits, or the sturdy blow-up orange balloon with handles that a kid can bounce around on (also available at the MOMA Store!) or the robot made out of the Erector Set, or the Marimekko children's clothes, or the full half hour video of Pee-wee's Playhouse (ostensibly aimed at children, but equally fascinating for adults), or the hilarious Pee-wee furnishings borrowed for the exhibition.

What we can show you, however, is Every Child, a short cartoon made by the National Film Board of Canada in association with UNICEF. It's a great story with a powerful message. A real joy to watch. (This version from YouTube is a bit wobbly, but you'll love the story so much you won't mind. If you have trouble with our embedded version, there's a link below as well.)


Link to Every Child.

Want to see more of the exhibition? Click here to see Blouin ArtInfo’s slide show. GO SEE IT!

What we're wearing:

Jean is wearing an Ignatius hat (natch!); Issey Miyake Pleats Please dress (traded with Valerie for another Issey piece); Theory shirt; customized platform Dankso clogs; Angela Caputi butterscotch and black resin chain link necklace; Illesteva glasses; vintage bakelite earrings, rings and bracelets; black leather cross-body bag.

Valerie is wearing: vintage Issey Miyake men's hat, shell, abalone and silver earrings, modernist print jacket with swallow tails by Tru-West Rockmount Ranch Wear, pants by Issey Miyake, unlabeled shoes.

What our Barbies are wearing:

Jean's Barbie Basics (gift from Jodi Head) is wearing an "lbd" - little black dress - and black high-heels.

Valerie's Barbie (who should be called the I Have My Own Pink Convertible with BBBBB Wall Tires Barbie, because that's what she comes with) is wearing a pink dress (with Bs on it) and vertiginous pink high heels, probably by Nicolas Ghesquiere.

TEDDY Update:  We want to thank all our readers for their responses to our Monday post on Teddy, the stolen labradoodle, and would really appreciate your spreading the word, since he has still not been recovered. For those of you who are more comfortable with the Facebook platform, we have Teddy's story and picture on Facebook as well.  Here is a link to our Facebook page.

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