Lighting from the Sixties and Seventies

Dec 21, 1991–Mar 29, 1992


Giancarlo Mattioli, of Gruppo Architetti Urbanisti Città Nuova. Nesso Table Lamp. 1965. Manufacturer: Artemide S.p.A., Milan, Italy. Fiberglass-reinforced polyester resin, 13 × 21″ (33 × 53.3 cm). Gift of the manufacturer. Photo: Mali Olatunji

Approximately twenty lamps from Museum’s design collection are on view in Lighting from the Sixties and Seventies. The exhibition exemplifies the wide variety of stylistic directions taken during a period of shifting design standards as well as of social and cultural change.

During the 1960s and ’70s, in response to a younger, more affluent consumer, lighting designers incorporated into their work new design values, such as informality, wit, and fashion. And as designers began to challenge the prevailing functional ism of the Modern Movement, in which lighting had been reduced to its most basic elements of bulb, wire, rod, and base, they shifted the emphasis to more extrinsic components, such as the fixture’s casing and shade. As a result, lighting designers began to experiment with myriad and new materials to create more sculptural, sensual forms.

The works in the exhibition attest to the multiformity of lamp design during this period. Included are: Gruppo Architetti Urbanisti Citta Nuova’s flowing, translucent “Nesso” table lamp (1964) of molded plastic; Achille Castiglioni’s “Taraxacum” Hanging Lamp (1960), a cocoon-like fixture consisting of sprayed synthetic fiber over a wire armature; Frans van Nieuwenborg’s “Delight” Lamp (1978), a bare bulb draped with fire-resistant fiberglass cloth; a bamboo, metal, and silk “Akari” lamp (c. 1977) by Isamu Noguchi, who, among others, extolled the virtues of crafts as an assertion of anti-industrial individuality.

Many of the lamps in the exhibition are from Italy, which, thanks to the small-craft-based nature of its factories, was able to control production quality and to be responsive to designers. As a result, Italy became a vanguard of design in an increasingly international market.

In the eighties, a new, somewhat spare aesthetic evolved in response to the widespread use of the small halogen bulb, which was introduced around 1970. Lighting from the Sixties and Seventies, which is on view in the Architecture and Design galleries on the Museum’s fourth floor, looks at the bold colors, grand scale, and diversity of expression of an important era in the history of lighting design.

Organized by Anne Dixon, study center supervisor, Department of Architecture and Design.


  • Master checklist 6 pages
  • Press release 2 pages


Installation images

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