Wendell Castle Serpentine Floor Lamp 1965
Wendell Castle Serpentine Floor Lamp 1965


NYSID Presents Exhibition and Panel Discussion Celebrating 20th Anniversary of Landmark "What Modern Was" Exhibition

Modern in the Past Tense: Revisiting the Landmark Exhibition “Design 1935-1965:
What Modern Was” at Montreal Museum of Decorative Arts

October 26, 2011 - January 12, 2012
Wednesday, October 26: Panel Discussion, 6pm; Opening Reception, 7:30pm
NYSID, 170 East 70th Street, NYC.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the landmark exhibition and publication, Design 1935-1965: What Modern Was, NYSID will pay homage to an event that became a touchstone of modern design, and a catalog that is widely regarded as the bible for understanding mid-century design. It was the first scholarly assessment of an area of design that has subsequently become a popular market and collecting favorite.

What Modern Was, formed entirely from works in the Stewart Collection in Montreal, was the result of four years of research by a team of sixteen scholars under the direction of Martin Eidelberg, currently Professor Emeritus of Art History at Rutgers University. The startling revelation of the exhibition and book was that the so-called Modern period was over. As Eidelberg’s catalogue essay described it, one could speak of “Modern in the past tense.” Furthermore, the modern period was seen as being composed of multiple Modern styles—International Style Modernism, Biomorphic and Streamlined Modernism, Postwar Modernism, and Postmodernism, and these subdivisions provided the themes of the exhibition.

In the NYSID exhibition, giant screens will show continuous projections of images from the What Modern Was exhibition as well as photographs of interiors and iconic architectural landmarks of the period. This exhibition will also feature a selection of furniture borrowed from private collectors to echo what was shown in the original exhibition and a timeline that will put the mid-century objects in context of the history, culture, entertainment, and fashion of the period.

The panel discussion on October 26th will explore the rediscovery of mid-century modernism and the role that What Modern Was played in that context. Panelists include David Hanks and Martin Eidelberg, curators of the original show; Newark Museum curator Ulysses Dietz; pioneering dealer Mark McDonald; and interior designer Ali Tayar. Moderated by Judith Gura, professor of Design History at NYSID.

The exhibition is organized in collaboration with the Stewart Program for Modern Design.
Design concept: Ali Tayar; consulting furniture curator: Larry Weinberg; exhibition coordinators: Judith Gura, David Hanks.
Gallery hours are Monday-Friday, 10 am-5 pm, closed weekends and holidays. Free, accessible, and open to the public. If you are planning to visit from out of town, it is advisable to call to check on gallery hours due to holiday closings.