Crafting Modernity

Design in Latin America, 1940–1980

Mar 8–Sep 22, 2024


Oscar Niemeyer. “Modulo” Low Table. 1978. Painted plywood and steel, 9 1/2 × 75 3/4 × 19 3/4" (24.1 × 192.4 × 50.2 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Architecture and Design Funds
  • MoMA, Floor 3

“There is design in everything,” wrote Clara Porset, the innovative Cuban-Mexican designer. She believed that craft and industry could inspire each other, forging an alternative path for modern design. Not all of Porset’s colleagues agreed with her conviction. This exhibition presents these sometimes conflicting visions of modernity proposed by designers of home environments in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Venezuela between 1940 and 1980. For some, design was an evolution of local and Indigenous craft traditions, leading to an approach that combined centuries-old artisanal techniques with machine-based methods. For others, design responded to market conditions and local tastes, and was based on available technologies and industrial processes. In this exhibition, objects including furniture, appliances, posters, textiles, and ceramics, as well as a selection of photographs and paintings, will explore these tensions.

The home became a site of experimentation for modern living during a period marked by dramatic political, economic, and social changes, which had broad repercussions for Latin American visual culture. For nearly half a century, the design of the domestic environment embodied ideas of national identity, models of production, and modern ways of living. The home also offered opportunities for a dialogue between art, architecture, and design. Highlights of the exhibition include Clara Porset’s Butaque chair; Lina Bo Bardi’s Bowl chair; Antonio Bonet, Juan Kurchan, and Jorge Ferrari Hardoy’s B.K.F. Chair; and Roberto Matta’s Malitte Lounge Furniture.

Organized by Ana Elena Mallet, guest curator, with Amanda Forment, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Architecture and Design.

The exhibition is made possible by Allianz, MoMA’s partner for design and innovation, and supporter of programs that look to a more sustainable future.

Generous funding is provided by The International Council of The Museum of Modern Art.

Additional support for the exhibition is provided by the Annual Exhibition Fund. Leadership contributions to the Annual Exhibition Fund, in support of the Museum’s collection and collection exhibitions, are generously provided by the Sandra and Tony Tamer Exhibition Fund, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, Jerry I. Speyer and Katherine G. Farley, Eva and Glenn Dubin, the Kate W. Cassidy Foundation, Kenneth C. Griffin, Alice and Tom Tisch, the Marella and Giovanni Agnelli Fund for Exhibitions, Mimi Haas, The David Rockefeller Council, The Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art, Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz, Kathy and Richard S. Fuld, Jr., The International Council of The Museum of Modern Art, Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis, Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder, and The Junior Associates of The Museum of Modern Art. Major contributions to the Annual Exhibition Fund are provided by The Sundheim Family Foundation.


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