Updates to Art and Design in the Modern Age

More than three dozen new objects, along with two new special installations, are part of the recently updated Art and Design in the Modern Age: Selections from The Wolfsonian Collection (ADMA). The updated installation retains the exhibition’s core themes and overall structure while refreshing its graphic identity, refining the exhibition design, revising text panels, and introducing new material.

ADMA showcases approximately three hundred American and European items from the museum’s collection period (1885–1945) in a wide range of formats, including decorative arts, furniture, industrial objects, paintings, sculptures, books, posters, and postcards. The exhibition reflects and explores this time of rapid change in the human environment due to industrialization, urbanization, advances in transportation and communications systems, and related developments. In the words of the introductory text panel, “The works on display in these galleries reveal how people living in this tumultuous period viewed the world and their place in it.”

The exhibition also introduces visitors to The Wolfsonian’s particular approach to modern cultural artifacts, explains Matthew Abess, The Wolfsonian’s assistant curator. “The galleries offer a survey of core collection themes and concerns. With this update we hope to emphasize that whether we are considering a teacart from Sicily or a souvenir from St. Louis, these materials are witness to a shared story. As part of the update, we have worked on further developing the arc of that narrative and establishing systems of display that better allow visitors to take part in discovering meaningful connections.”

Objects newly on display include the Nocturne radio (c. 1935) designed by Walter Dorwin Teague, which was last on view in ADMA in 2007. The radio, long a viewer favorite, is a sought-after loan item showcased in several exhibitions nationally and internationally. During the past decade it has been seen at the Victoria & Albert Museum, Royal Ontario Museum, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Another new item is a poster for an 1898 exhibition of engines and machines in Munich that included the first public display of a range of diesel engines—II. Kraft Und Arbeits Maschinen Ausstellung, München 1898 [Second Exhibition of Engines and Machinery…] (1897) by Adolf Münzer.

ADMA has traditionally rotated in themed installations and will continue to do so. The current update includes a gallery devoted to recent acquisitions. Also new is an installation featuring the theater designs of S. Charles Lee (1899–1990), a versatile and prolific architect who designed more than four hundred movie theatres between 1920 and 1950, the majority in California and Mexico. His work exhibits a broad range of engagements, from revivalist styles such as Spanish Colonial to streamlined design.

“The drawings are beautiful and from them you can see the evolution of his work. It is kind of a parade of different styles,” notes The Wolfsonian’s curator Silvia Barisione. The gallery includes an iPad installation of images of the Miami Theatre, his only project in Florida, which opened in 1947. The building’s style was a mix of streamlined design with Baroque details. While the drawings and photos in the digital installation are from the Lee Archive at UCLA, Lee’s works throughout the physical installation are drawn from The Wolfsonian’s collection.

“There is a great visual power to these drawings. What is so striking is the way in which they depict the theaters as Charles Lee imagined them—they remind us of the ways in which hand drawing is able to capture someone’s imagination,” says Peter Clericuzio, The Wolfsonian’s academic programs manager. “Lee had a constant imaginative power. He was very much on the cutting edge of things and very sensitive to the ways that tastes change. I hope viewers of these drawings take away a new or renewed appreciation of architectural drawing as both a utilitarian process and an art form.”



Radio, Nocturne, model no. 1186, c. 1935
Walter Dorwin Teague (American, 1883–1960), designer
Sparton Corporation, Jackson, Mississippi, c. 1936, manufacturer
Glass, chrome-plated metal, wood
The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection,
The Wolfsonian–FIU


Poster, II. Kraft- und Arbeits-Maschinen-Ausstellung, München 1898 [Second Exhibition of Engines and Machinery...], 1897
Adolf Münzer (German, 1870–1953), designer
Karl Stücker’s Kunstanstalt, Munich, printer
Offset lithograph
The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection,
The Wolfsonian–FIU

Design drawing, Carlos Theatre, San Carlos, California, 1939–40
S. Charles Lee (American, 1899–1990), architect
Los Angeles, California
Graphite, ink, and watercolor on board
The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection,
The Wolfsonian–FIU

Article Image(s): 
Updates to Art and Design in the Modern Age
Updates to Art and Design in the Modern Age