MoMA’s ambitious survey of 20th century design for children is the first large-scale overview of the modernist preoccupation with children and childhood as a paradigm for progressive design thinking. The exhibition will bring together areas underrepresented in design history and often considered separately, including school architecture, clothing, playgrounds, toys and games, children’s hospitals and safety equipment, nurseries, furniture, and books.
In 1900, Swedish design reformer and social theorist Ellen Key’s book Century of the Child presaged the 20th century as a period of intensified focus and progressive thinking regarding the rights, development, and well-being of children as interests of utmost importance to all society. Taking inspiration from Key—and looking back through the 20th century 100 years after her forecast—this exhibition will examine individual and collective visions for the material world of children, from utopian dreams for the “citizens of the future” to the dark realities of political conflict and exploitation. In this period children have been central to the concerns, ambitions, and activities of modern architects and designers both famous and unsung, and working specifically for children has often provided unique freedom and creativity to the avant-garde.
Related programming is offered at MoMA Studio: Common Senses.
Organized by Juliet Kinchin, Curator, and Aidan O’Connor, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Architecture and Design.
Major support for the exhibition is provided by Lawrence B. Benenson and The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation.
Additional funding is provided by the Nordic Culture Fund, Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Inc., The Modern Women’s Fund, the Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation, and Marimekko.
Support for the publication is provided by The International Council of The Museum of Modern Art and the Jo Carole Lauder Publications Fund of The International Council of The Museum of Modern Art.
Special thanks to Stokke AS–Ålesund, Norway.
Image: Ladislav Sutnar. Prototype for Build the Town Building Blocks. 1940–43. Painted wood, large block: 1 3/4 x 2 3/4 x 2 3/4″ (4.4 x 7 x 7 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Ctislav Sutnar and Radoslav Sutnar