A current selection of historical graphic design, art and photography exhibitions from around the world. From large retrospectives to intimate showings, these important exhibits feature the varied styles and spirit of the design pioneers, movements and ideologies that have defined and influenced 20th century modern art and design. Please contact us if you know of an important exhibition we may have missed.
Ends June 13, 2016
MoMA (Museum of Modern Art), New York City
The artist and designer El Lissitzky conjured the idea of “the electro-library” in a brief manifesto on typography in 1923. The phrase suggested a shifting context for the typography being generated by avant-garde designers and artists in Europe in the 1920s. Closely linked to the ideas of Constructivism and related movements that proposed a universal visual language, this new typography was commonly transmitted by experimental magazines devoted to the visual arts, design, architecture, theater, and film. Created by individuals central to these modernist movements—El Lissitzky, Kurt Schwitters, László Moholy-Nagy, Hans Richter, Theo van Doesburg, Lajos Kassák and Karel Teige—the magazines read as manifestos for new art and design innovations and functioned as a platform for translated writings by key figures of the international avant-garde. This exhibition surveys the MoMA Library’s extensive holdings of these magazines and traces this network of protagonists as they developed a new design language for the printed page.
April 05 – June 19, 2016
The National Museum of Art, Osaka
Graphic Designer, Ikko Tanaka (1930–2002) was hugely influential in shaping postwar visual culture in Japan. This exhibition, presents for the first time in Osaka, a selection of approx. 50 works showcasing a fusion of Japanese culture, traditional arts and modern Western design. After graduating from the Kyoto City University of Arts, Tanaka began creating designs for the Kanebo cosmetics company and the Sankei Shimbun newspaper company. At the age of 23, Tanaka became a member of the Japan Advertising Artists Club (JAAC), and in 1957, he moved to Tokyo, where he established his own firm, the Ikko Tanaka Design Studio, in 1963. Tanaka subsequently oversaw designs for countless national events including the Tokyo Olympics, and for companies such as the Saison Group and Muji. He also received international acclaim by holding numerous solo exhibitions and other events abroad.
Tanaka's work is distinguished by a fusion of Japanese culture and traditional arts and modern Western design from the postwar era. In addition to expressing Tanaka's personal aesthetic and serving as the origin of his creative work, it is a theme that he pursued throughout his career.
November 14 – July 4, 2016
LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), Los Angeles
Alvin Lustig and Elaine Lustig Cohen are towering figures in American graphic design. Lustig, a beloved teacher and influential critic as well as a polymath designer, advocated an ambitious mission for the discipline, insisting that a true designer could guide public taste toward “the proper expression of the society he lives in.” As head of her own office, Cohen maintained an independence that was rare for women at mid-century. In 1973 she co-founded Ex Libris, a rare book and ephemera shop that played an essential role in the development of design history. Both designers imbued their work with their knowledge and passion for modern art, translating the immediacy and psychological impact of abstract painting into mass-market communications. Made possible by a generous donation from the designers’ archive, this presentation highlights this connection through book and magazine covers, advertisements, packaging, and announcements.
March 11 – July 4, 2016
The Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville
From early vanguard Constructivist works by Alexander Rodchenko and El Lissitzky to the modernist images of Arkady Shaikhet and Max Penson, Soviet photographers played a pivotal role in the history of modern photography. The Power of Pictures: Early Soviet Photography and Film examines how photography, film, and poster art were harnessed to disseminate Communist ideology, revisiting a moment in history when artists acted as engines of social change and radical political engagement. Covering the period from the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution through the 1930s, the exhibition explores how early modernist photography and film influenced a new Soviet style while energizing and expanding the nature of the media. Through more than 150 works, The Power of Pictures reveals how striking images by master photographers and filmmakers were seen as powerful propaganda tools in the new Soviet Union, and looks at photography and film together as influential and formally related media.
May 25 – July 17, 2016
ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts), London
Founded as a typewriter manufacturing company by Camillo Olivetti in 1908 in Ivrea, Italy, Olivetti is considered one of the leading manufacturers of the mid-20th century. Recognizing the importance of design over pure functionalism, a concept largely owed to his son, Adriano Olivetti, the company produced some of the most iconic hand-typing devices and early computers of the 20th century. This exhibit presents photographs, films and ephemera relating to Olivetti’s graphic and spatial design, as well as architecture. Focusing largely on the industrial boom of the post-war era, a key period in Olivetti’s history and a time which saw the creation of the iconic Valentine typewriter and the company’s increasing move towards computer technologies.
Olivetti’s innovative design ethos extended beyond its products and can be found in its advertisements, considered pioneering for the ways in which they communicated complex, extensive information through a bold, simplified aesthetic, but also through interior design and architecture, as seen in the company’s numerous showrooms and shop window displays which were conceptualised and transformed into unique installations. The exhibition creates a historical lineage and shows the progressive cultural ideals at the heart of the company’s ethos, a model which still resonates today.
June 22 – August 7, 2016
Gallery 360, Northeastern University, Boston
The dissemination and configuration of information is more important than ever with the internet, mobile gadgets and social media as the default means of communication, commerce and research. Data organization and accessibility has its roots in the work of graphic designer, Ladislav Sutnar (1897-1976). From 1941–60, Sutnar, who had settled in New York City in 1939 after migrating from Czechoslovakia, served as the art director for F.W. Dodge Corporation’s Sweet’s Catalog Service, producers of a wide range of industrial catalogs. Sweet’s catalogs brought together into one source plumbing, electrical, and building supplies which were marketed to the architecture and engineering trades. Along with his team of researchers, writers and designers (including Director of Research Knud Lönberg-Holm), Sutnar transformed the complex language of product information into clear, concise, and easy to use visual communication.
This exhibition which originated at Fordham University (NYC, 2015) brings together for the first time in Boston a rare opportunity to see more than 50 Sweet’s industrial product catalogs along with other published work by Sutnar relating to information design. The utilitarian and economical designs show how careful analysis and problem solving can result in new standards of form and function. Sutnar said, “The designer must think first, work later” and this is evident in his pioneering work, as relevant today as it was more than 70 years ago.
March 25 – August 21, 2016
Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt
After World War I, a unique modernization and design project that would go down in architectural history as Das Neue Frankfurt (“New Frankfurt”) got underway in the metropolis on the Main. Yet it was a far more comprehensive undertaking that also encompassed political, social and pan-cultural dimensions and aspired towards no less ambitious a goal than to create a new city and a new society. In the exhibition New Everything Frankfurt’s Museum Angewandte Kunst will present a systematic survey of the typography and graphic design of that era for the first time. The exhibition will focus above all on the 1920s, while also extending the time span to the post-World War II era and into the 1980s, and will moreover be enhanced by spotlights on the vibrant world of present-day design.
April 30 – September 4, 2016
De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill on Sea, East Sussex
Willem Sandberg: from type to image, is the first UK survey of an internationally renowned icon of graphic design. Sandberg was director of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam from 1945 to 1963 where he championed new artists, developed one of the most important collections of modern art in Europe and implemented radical transformations of the Museum’s environment. He designed hundreds of posters, catalogues and cards for the Museum'’s exhibitions, as well as stationery and other publicity materials. The exhibition showcases Sandberg’'s entire body of work from the 1930s to the 1980s for the first time in the UK and tells the story of how he transformed text into image to create a unique graphic language, including his use of 'warm printing' experimental typography and the incorporation of simple materials and reuse of existing print matter in his work. Sandberg’'s distinctive designs are characterised by asymmetric typography created from fonts, ciphers and the rough contours of shapes torn out of paper.
May 27 – September 6, 2016
Guggenheim Museum, New York City
The first comprehensive retrospective of the work of László Moholy-Nagy (1895–1946) to appear in the United States in nearly fifty years, this long overdue presentation will reveal a utopian artist who believed that art could work hand-in-hand with technology for the betterment of humanity. The exhibition will present an unparalleled opportunity to examine the career of this pioneering painter, photographer, sculptor, and filmmaker as well as graphic, exhibition, and stage designer, who was also an influential teacher at the Bauhaus, a prolific writer, and later the founder of Chicago’s Institute of Design. Among his radical innovations were experimentation with cameraless photography; the use of industrial materials in painting and sculpture; research with light, transparency, and movement; work at the forefront of abstraction; and the fluidity with which he moved between the fine and applied arts. The exhibition will include more than 300 collages, drawings, ephemera, films, paintings, photograms, photographs, photomontages, and sculptures, including works from public and private collections across Europe and the United States, some of which have never before been shown publicly in the U.S. (Image above from: László Moholy-Nagy, Construction AL6 (Konstruktion AL6), 1933–34, oil and incised lines on aluminum, 60 × 50 cm , IVAM, Institut Valencià d’Art Modern, Generalitat © 2016 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York)
March 12 – September 11, 2016
Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft, Ditchling, East Sussex
This exhibition marks the centenary of Edward Johnston’s world famous typeface for London Underground. Remarkably, it has barely changed over 100 years, a testament to its success as station way finders. Hand drawn by Johnston whilst living in Ditchling this alphabet is gloriously simple, but its design is rooted in much earlier lettering since it bears the proportions of Roman capitals. The design was initially proposed in 1913 by Frank Pick, commercial manager of London Underground Railway as a joint project for Edward Johnston and Eric Gill, but Gill was unable to proceed since he had agreed to a major commission of Stations of the Cross stone reliefs for Westminster Cathedral.
Johnston’s typeface is known variously as Underground, or Johnston Sans. It is also known as the basis on which Eric Gill, one of Johnston’s first pupils at Central School of Arts & Crafts, designed his typeface Gill Sans for the Monotype Corporation, released in 1928. With similar proportions to Johnston’s earlier typeface, it was initially criticised for being too similar but both Johnston Sans and Gill Sans have become modern classics. This exhibition shows Johnston as a true man of letters, resurrecting and redefining calligraphy in the West, and designing an elegant typeface for London Underground. Highlights include Johnston’s calligraphy for W R Lethaby which secured his post as a teacher at Central School of Arts & Crafts; manuscripts showing his development as a calligrapher; rarely seen working drawings of the Underground typeface, and original drawings for Gill Sans.
May 27 – September 11, 2016
House of Illustration, London
With their perfect synthesis of typography, design and illustration, Soviet children’s books in the 1920s and 1930s revolutionised the picture book form against a turbulent political backdrop. Subjects ranged from folk tales and contemporary children's verse to books on the modern world and Soviet education, brought to life with bold colours, dynamic shapes and playful layouts. The exhibition will explore this period of unprecedented innovation, from the pre-revolutionary 'Silver Age' of Russian illustration to the pioneers of Soviet children's publishing. A selection of rare books and original works from the unparalleled collection of Sasha Lurye will provide a window on this fertile and fascinating moment in 20th century illustration. Discover rarely-seen work by some of the most influential figures of the age, including Vladimir Tambi, sisters Olga and Galina Chichagova, and Vladimir Lebedev, whose avant garde illustrations for prominent poet and translator Samuil Marshak such as Circus and Luggage have become iconic. “Out with bourgeoise crocodiles! How the Soviets rewrote children's books” – Guardian
June 12 – September 18, 2016
MoMA (Museum of Modern Art), New York City
Dadaglobe Reconstructed reunites over 100 works created for Dadaglobe, Tristan Tzara’s planned but unrealized magnum opus, originally slated for publication in 1921. An ambitious anthology that aimed to document Dada’s international activities, Dadaglobe was not merely a vehicle for existing works, but served as a catalyst for the production of new ones. Tzara invited some 50 artists from 10 countries to submit artworks in four categories: photographic self-portraits, photographs of artworks, original drawings, and layouts for book pages. The exhibition brings together these photographs, drawings, photomontages, and collages, along with a selection of related archival material, to reconstruct this volume. Though never published, due to financial and organizational difficulties, Tzara’s project addresses concerns about art’s reproducibility that continue to be relevant today.
April 22 – September 25, 2016
Bard Graduate Center Gallery, New York City
Artek and the Aaltos: Creating a Modern World is the first exhibition in the United States to examine Artek, a pioneering Finnish design company founded in 1935, and the first to have a specific focus on the two architect co-founders, Alvar Aalto (1898–1976) and Aino Marsio-Aalto (1894–1949). The exhibition considers the Aaltos’ shared practice through the lens of this groundbreaking company, whose under-recognized and multifaceted mission far exceeded its manufacturing of bentwood furniture designed by Alvar Aalto, for which the firm is best known. It also offers for the first time a specific analysis of Artek’s distinct international role as a disseminator of modernism in art, architecture, interiors, furniture, and other modern products. Approximately 200 works will be featured—many never before on public view—including architectural drawings, drawings and sketches for interiors and furniture, paintings, photography, furniture, glassware, lighting, and textiles.
April 24 – October 16, 2016
Museum Villa Pia (Erich Lindenberg Art Foundation), Porza
Boggeri calls me into his office and begins to tell me a story of spiders and cobwebs. And with its beautiful hands, the most beautiful hands I have ever touched, track different types of spider webs in space. Finally he comes to graphics and tells me that often the Swiss graphics are perfect, but often a useless perfection. Useful, the web, would become only when broken by fly. Thus, thanks to him, began this search for meaning in my work.
Bruno Monguzzi: The Fly and the Spider’s Web includes over eighty works and covers all of Monguzzi’s activities, starting from his debut in Milan, and accompanying us inside his thinking so that we can be guided by the artist himself in the genesis of some of his paradigmatic responses. In conjunction with the exhibition, the Erich Lindenberg Art Foundation has commissioned the Zurich filmmaker Heinz Bütler to create an 86’ documentary film comprising fifteen chapters. To accompany both the exhibition and the film a book is being written that continues the journey inside the processes of visual communication via an interview with Bruno Monguzzi that Franc Nunoo-Quarcoo carried out over a twenty-year period.
May 14 – October 23, 2016
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco
Anchored by a major gift from graphic designer and collector Aaron Marcus, this exhibition presents a selection from SFMOMA’s permanent collection of graphic design since 1950. Typeface to Interface notes the shift from analog to digital in visual communication and includes important examples of communication tools that have shaped our relationship with graphic design. Oscillating between structured formalism and free form expression, the works on view show the rapidly evolving field of graphic design. Advertising, wayfinding, and information systems are displayed alongside artistic and conceptual experimentation, providing a view of the progressive discourse on what graphic design is and how it is used.
HfG Ulm: Ulmer Museum, Ulm
During its existence between 1953 and 1968 the Ulm School of Design became one of the world’s most influential academies for designers. Here such iconic designs as the Ulm stool and the stacked tableware TC 100 were made, and also the Braun company’s radio-phono combination SK 4, known as “Snow White’s coffin.” The “ulm model” that was developed at the HfG was a design concept based on science and technology, and it sets standards to this day. The new permanent exhibition, “The Ulm School of Design – From the Zero Hour to 1968” includes more than 200 exhibits and numerous photographs from the comprehensive inventory at the HfG Archive in Ulm. With this rich collection of works and documents and the proximity to the former Ulm School premises, Ulm is the only place where the history of the School can be experienced in this way.
The exhibition is divided into three main sections, beginning with a quick presentation of the key features of the immediate postwar “Zero Hour” and the years before the Ulm School was founded. The core of the exhibition design is two large shelf components. The first shows the history of the Ulm School chronologically, together with designs, models, and projects from these years. The second shelf presents selected concepts and themes alphabetically from A to Z, all of which help to understand a wide range of issues associated with the Ulm School. The founders of the School, Inge Aicher-Scholl, Otl Aicher, and Max Bill, are also featured in the exhibition. Two large tables are dedicated to temporary exhibitions. For the new opening, these will be used as large “newspapers” showing interesting examples of how the press reported on the Ulm School.