Mid-Century at the Museum: Must-See Exhibits in 2014

When it comes to choosing a place to go on holiday, I usually pick a destination that includes a great photography or mid-century exhibit somewhere.  If you’re like that, too, here are a few exhibitions throughout the nation that might help you decide where to spend a little vacation time this year.  I’ve included some day-trip exhibits, too, in case you just have to run away but can’t go too far.  Enjoy!



Bauhaus twenty-21: An Ongoing Legacy — Photographs by Gordon Watkinson
Price Tower Arts Center
January 24 to May 4, 2014

“Conceived as a multidisciplinary project encompassing architecture, design, and photography, (this exhibit) not only conveys the architectural history, but also illustrates the enduring philosophies of the Bauhaus. The exhibition, by creating a visual as well as theoretical dialogue between the timeless modernism of Bauhaus architecture and the visions of contemporary practitioners, offers a unique perspective on Bauhaus design philosophy as it relates to architecture and its relevance in today’s society.”



Bloomfield Hills, MI:

Paul Evans: Crossing Boundaries and Crafting Modernism
Cranbrook Art Museum
June 21 to October 12, 2014

There’s not a lot of info about this exhibit on the website, but it’s definitely high on my must-see list — all of that great Paul Evans furniture to salivate over!  I am so there….



Charleston, SC:

Fashion Flashback – 1970s
The Charleston Museum
January 18 to April 27, 2014

“This decade was a flamboyant period for fashion and style, full of often outrageous trends. Like other elements of 1970s pop culture, clothing was fraught with contradictions and extremes. Some styles reflected a romantic, nostalgic view of the past while others created a sharp, almost harsh vision of the future.”




Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-1938
Art Institute of Chicago
June 24 to October 13, 2014

Okay, so this technically isn’t mid-century but Magritte is cool and this looks like a really good show, so I thought I’d go ahead and include it.  “Featuring over 100 paintings, collages, drawings, and objects, along with a selection of photographs, periodicals, and early commercial work, this is the first major museum exhibition to focus exclusively on the breakthrough years of René Magritte, creator of some of the 20th century’s most extraordinary images. Beginning in 1926 and ending in 1938, the exhibition traces significant strategies and themes used by the artist during the most profoundly inventive and experimental period in his long, productive career.  Displacement, transformation, metamorphosis, and the “misnaming” of objects as well as the representation of visions seen in half-waking states are among Magritte’s key subjects and tactics during these seminal years.”




Surrealist Photography: The Raymond Collection
Cleveland Museum of Art
October 19, 2014 to January 11, 2015

“Beginning in the 1990s, art collector and filmmaker David Raymond judiciously sought out vintage prints from the 1920s through the 1940s that reflect the eye in its wild state (l’oeil a l’etat sauvage), remaining true to the spirit of Andre Breton, founder of the first surrealist group in Paris. Raymond’s holdings of surrealist and modernist photography were distinguished by their quality, breadth and rarity of subject matter. In 2007, the Cleveland Museum of Art made a major, transformative acquisition by acquiring that collection, one of the most important holdings of twentieth century Surrealist photography that remained in private hands.”




Form/Unformed: Design from 1960 to the Present
Dallas Museum of Art
December 19, 2010 to December 31, 2014

If you haven’t seen this one yet, it’s certainly worth a trip.  “Including over thirty works drawn largely from the Museum’s collection dating from the 1960s to the present, this exhibition reveals the transformation of ideology and forms that have shaped international design of the last half century. From the technological and formal ideals of modernism to the influence of the handmade object, the works reflect increasingly complex and vibrant relationships between concepts of function, aesthetics, and material expression. Featured are designs by Verner Panton, Frank Gehry, Aldo Rossi, Ettore Sottsass, Robert Venturi, Donald Judd, Zaha Hadid, Louise Campbell, and Fernando and Humberto Campana.”




Modern Masters: 20th Century Icons from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery
Denver Museum of Art
March 2 – June 8, 2014

“This exhibition at the DAM will bring together about 70 iconic artworks by Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Georgia O’Keeffe, Salvador Dalí, Frida Kahlo, and Andy Warhol as well as one of Jackson Pollock’s finest drip paintings. In all, more than 40 influential artists will be on view.”

Your ticket to the Modern Masters exhibit also gets you in to this one:


1959: The Albright-Knox Art Gallery Exhibition Recreated
Denver Museum of Art
February 14 – June 15, 2014

“In the fall of 1959, Clyfford Still was the subject of a major one-person exhibition at the Albright Art Gallery (now the Albright-Knox Art Gallery) in Buffalo, New York. This exhibition was among the largest of his career and the first exhibition after Still effectively broke ties with the art world in 1951. 1959 will include selections from the original exhibition in Buffalo (works now in the Clyfford Still Museum collection) along with extensive materials from the Museum’s archives. Exhibition enhancements, in the Boettcher Foundation Education Gallery, will include an audio recording of Still reading his introduction to the 1959 exhibition catalogue and an interactive that allows visitors to virtually visit the original Buffalo installation.”


If you decide to go to Denver for a little R&R, check out our very mod travel guide for other places to visit while you’re there:  https://okcmod.com/?p=4048



Ft. Worth:

New York in the 1980s: Urban Theater
Modern Art Museum of Ft. Worth
September 21, 2014 – January 4, 2015

Alright, so this isn’t mid-century, but who doesn’t love New York of the 1980s?  I really can’t wait to see this one….

“Vibrant, vital, and discordant, the New York art scene of the 1980s gave rise to some of the contemporary art world’s most recognizable features. As the artists who emerged in that decade now set records at auction, the era is ripe to be reexamined. Representing in turns a cool irony, reflections on media culture, consumerism, cartoons, and street art, the work collected here re-creates the tense energy of a grittier New York.”



Los Angeles:

Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic
Los Angeles County Museum of Art Resnick Pavilion
November 24, 2013–July 27, 2014

Curated by Frank Gehry, this exhibit contains many of Calder’s most iconic mobile designs.  “One of the most important artists of the twentieth century, Alexander Calder revolutionized modern sculpture. Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic, with significant cooperation from the Calder Foundation, explores the artist’s radical translation of French Surrealist vocabulary into American vernacular. His most iconic works, coined mobiles by Marcel Duchamp, are kinetic sculptures in which flat pieces of painted metal connected by wire move delicately in the air, propelled by motors or air currents. His later stabiles are monumental structures, whose arching forms and massive steel planes continue his engagement with dynamism and daring innovation.”

Later in the year, this exhibit travels to the Peabody Essex in Salem, MA, so you can check it out there, too:




New York:

Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal
Museum of Modern Art in New York City
February 1 – June 1, 2014

“Through an initial selection of drawings, films, and large-scale architectural models, the exhibition examines the tension in Wright’s thinking about the growing American city in the 1920s and 1930s, when he worked simultaneously on radical new forms for the skyscraper and on a comprehensive plan for the urbanization of the American landscape titled “Broadacre City.” Visitors encounter the spectacular 12-foot-by-12-foot model of this plan, which merges one of the earliest schemes for a highway flyover with an expansive, agrarian domain. Promoted and updated throughout Wright’s life, the model toured the country for several years in the 1930s, beginning with a display at Rockefeller Center. This dispersed vision is paired with Wright’s innovative structural experiments for building the vertical city.”

While you’re at MOMA, you might want to check this one out, too:


Designing Modern Women: 1890-1990
October 25, 2013 – September 21, 2014

This one certainly looks like must-see.   “Modern design of the twentieth century was profoundly shaped and enhanced by the creativity of women—as muses of modernity and shapers of new ways of living, and as designers, patrons, performers and educators. This installation, drawn entirely from MoMA’s collection, celebrates the diversity and vitality of individual artists’ engagement in the modern world, from Loïe Fuller’s pulsating turn-of-the-century performances to April Greiman’s 1980s computer-generated graphics, at the vanguard of early digital design. Highlights include the first display of a newly conserved kitchen by Charlotte Perriand with Le Corbusier (1952) from the Unité d’Habitation housing project, furniture and designs by Lilly Reich, Eileen Gray, Eva Zeisel, Ray Eames, Lella Vignelli, and Denise Scott Brown; textiles by Anni Albers and Eszter Haraszty; ceramics by Lucy Rie; a display of 1960s psychedelic concert posters by graphic designer Bonnie Maclean, and a never-before-seen selection of posters and graphic material from the punk era.”


Degenerate Art: The Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany, 1937
Neue Gallery
March 13 – June 30, 2014

New York is looking better and better with this one that combines two of my favorite things — art and history — in this fascinating look at some of the modern works that were on display in Munich during the early years of Nazi Germany.  “The term “degenerate” was adopted by the National Socialist regime as part of its campaign against modern art. Many works branded as such by the Nazis were seized from museums and private collections. Following the showing on these works in a three-year traveling exhibition that criss-crossed Germany and Austria, most were sold, lost, or presumed destroyed. In this light, the recent discovery in Munich of the Gurlitt trove of such artwork has attracted considerable attention.”


Italian Futurism, 1909-1944: Reconstructing the Universe
Guggenheim Museum
February 21 to September 1, 2014

“Presenting over 300 works executed between 1909 and 1944, the chronological exhibition encompasses not only painting and sculpture, but also architecture, design, ceramics, fashion, film, photography, advertising, free-form poetry, publications, music, theater, and performance.”

Here’s another interesting one at Guggenheim:


ZERO: Countdown to Tomorrow – 1950s-60s
October 10, 2014 to January 5, 2015

This is “the first large-scale historical survey in the United States dedicated to the German artist group Zero (1957–1966) founded by Heinz Mack and Otto Piene and joined in 1961 by Günther Uecker, and ZERO, an international network of like-minded artists from Europe, Japan, and North and South America—including Lucio Fontana, Yves Klein, Yayoi Kusama, Piero Manzoni, Almir Mavignier, Jan Schoonhoven, and Jesús Rafael Soto—who shared the group’s aspiration to transform and redefine art in the aftermath of World War II.”



Salem, MA:

California Design, 1930-1965: Living in a Modern Way
Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts
March 29 through July 6, 2014

If you missed this in California (and I did), then here’s another chance to check out this great exhibit devoted to everything mid-century California.  Suddenly, a trip to Boston and Salem is sounding pretty good….  “More than 200 examples of mid-century modern design reveal the distinctive role California had in shaping material culture from 1930-1965. Featuring a diverse array of furniture, textiles, fashion, industrial and graphic design, ceramics, jewelry, metalwork, film and architecture, this exhibition celebrates the innovation and pervasiveness of mid-century modern design. The work of legendary designers such as Charles and Ray Eames, Richard Neutra, and Greta Magnusson Grossman are explored, as is the sociological and geographical context which gave rise to this unprecedented design movement.”



San Francisco:

Modernism from the National Gallery of Art: The Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Collection
de Young Fine Arts Museum
June 7 to October 12, 2014

“The de Young will feature nearly 50 works by Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, and Frank Stella, among others. The de Young is the exclusive venue for this exhibition, the first of the Meyerhoff Collection outside the greater Washington, DC, and Baltimore metro areas.”

While you’re at the de Young, check out this one, too:


Shaping Abstraction
February 1, 2014 to January 4, 2015

“Drawn primarily from the Bay Area collections of Maurice and the late Harriet Gregg and of John Weeden and the late David Davies, this exhibition presents a selection of works by early to mid-20th-century American abstractionists. Many of these artists were associated with the New York–based American Abstract Artists group (AAA), which played a pivotal role in advancing the cause of abstraction in the United States in the first half of the 20th century.”


Designing Home: Jews and Midcentury Modernism
Jewish Contemporary Museum
April 24, 2014 to October 6, 2014

“Both native-born artists and émigrés, most of whom made indelible contributions to American visual culture after fleeing Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy in the 1930s, will be highlighted. The exhibition will underscore that these designers, individually talented as they were, did not work in isolation, and that their impact on American architecture and design was rooted in the networks they forged, influential schools and artist colonies they helped found, museum initiatives they shaped, and corporations they modernized with new products, buildings, and advertising campaigns.”



Modernism in the Pacific Northwest: The Mythic and the Mystical
Seattle Art Museum
June 19 to September 7, 2014

“In the late 1930s, with wars in Europe and Asia looming, and with Americans experiencing a ruinous economic Depression, a small group of artists came together in Seattle to share their ideas about making relevant art. They shunned European art influences and embraced new artistic models among the diverse cultures represented in the Pacific Northwest. Mark Tobey, Morris Graves, Kenneth Callahan, and Guy Anderson became known as the founders of the “Northwest School” of artists, whose followers included George Tsutakawa, Paul Horiuchi, Leo Kenney, James Washington, Jr., Tony Angell, and Philip McCracken. Their synergistic relationship gave rise to a style of painting that represented each artist’s own particular spiritual quests, while reflecting the distinct environment of the Northwest.”


Here’s another one at the SAM that looks interesting:

Pop Departures
October 9, 2014 to January 11, 2015

“The pioneers of American Pop will be represented with key works by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, John Chamberlain, James Rosenquist, Tom Wesselmann and Mel Ramos. The exhibition will further examine a new generation of artists in the 1980s – including Jeff Koons, Richard Prince, John Baldessari, Barbara Kruger, and Raymond Pettibon – who began to rethink ideas of commodity culture in a new social and political climate.”




Opening Abstraction
Philbrook Downtown
June 14 to June 29, 2014

“Abstraction is often used by artists to emote their own psychological states and explore the intangible spiritual realm. This desire will be seen in examples encompassing Abstract Expressionism, Color Field, and other movements in painting. Post-War examples of work by artists such as Morris Louis and Clyfford Still will be shown alongside later works by Willem deKooning, Joseph Glasco, Gary Simmons, and others.”



Washington D.C.:

American Cool
National Portrait Gallery
February 7 to September 7, 2014

“American Cool” is a photography and cultural studies exhibition featuring portraits of such iconic figures, each of whom has contributed an original artistic vision to American culture symbolic of a particular historical moment. They emerged from a variety of fields: art, music, film, sports, comedy, literature, and political activism. “American Cool” is the zeitgeist taking embodied form.

“American Cool” is captured by a roll call of fine-art photographers from Henri Cartier-Bresson to Annie Leibovitz, from Richard Avedon to Herman Leonard to Diane Arbus.