31 July 2018


A Modern Life.
Tablewares 1930s–1980s

National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

– 27 January 2019



The exhibition “A Modern Life” focuses on ceramic tableware illustrative of 20th-century modern lifestyles in shape and colour as well as in terms of how they were marketed.


After the Second World War, political and social changes had a major impact on domestic life. In the early days of modern lifestyle, people saw a focus on designing their homes. Growing economic power and greater prosperity led to an increasing desire for aesthetic and affordable objects that were both visually appealing and practical. The role of designers also changed: they began to work closely with manufacturers, communicating the feel of modern lifestyles through the shapes and styles of their products. A good example of the change in ceramic design is Russel Wright’s “American Modern” collection, which gave the buyer a say in the process of choosing design and colours, while the choices available were already exceptionally diverse. The aim of this approach was to make the manufacturing process accessible to the consumer while highlighting the individuality of the designer. Each product in the “American Modern” collection featured Wright’s signature, turning his name into a brand.

The exhibition showcases selected objects from leading manufactures and designers of the time from Great Britain, the USA, Japan, and various European countries. The focus is on ceramics, but products made of other materials, such as plastic, aluminum, and steel also feature, alongside examples of graphic design and advertising from the postwar period. “A Modern Life” also explores the lasting impact of women on the ceramics industry, the extent to which Scandinavian design was considered a model of modern design, and how good design harmonises functionality with aesthetics.


Nº 283
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