The Shows Go On

These exhibitions and events from the last 25 years continue to matter.

Looking back at the architecture and design exhibitions of the past 25 years, at first glance much seems to have changed. But a closer examination reveals that things have evolved. In the early 1980s, as Modern design’s pared-down expressions were called into question, designers welcomed the creative input of the fine arts—architects collaborating with artists and the art furniture movement are just two examples. Back then architects were designing exclusive teapots in silver; today they’re designing affordable ones we can buy at Target.

In deciding how to assess these shows, Metropolis searched its own library, asked curators for their input, and perused the archives of galleries and museums around the country. There were more than 100 shows in our initial tally, so this final list is a streamlined version—and it’s purely subjective. It wasn’t necessarily curatorial excellence or a show’s initial impact that determined its selection; instead we chose to evaluate the exhibitions, particularly those further in the past, by assessing their ongoing influence. The dozen shows we selected documented and interpreted a significant moment in the recent history of design. More important, their resonance continues to be felt.

Read a sample of Akiko Busch’s book, The Uncommon Life of Common Objects, by clicking here.

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