Through the wonders of the internet you can now see every MoMA exhibit ever. Earlier this month the Museum of Modern Art in New York made their complete exhibition history, including photographs, archival documents, & exhibit catalogs, available online. The 86-year-old Museum of Modern Art just released an extensive digital archive featuring 33,000 images, including installation shots, exhibition checklists, and press releases that chronicle the museum’s long exhibition history, from 1929 to today.
This includes the watershed 1932 exhibit entitled Modern Architecture: International Exhibit, which originally ran from February 9 to March 23, 1932. The exhibit was curated by Architect Philip Johnson who corroborated with architectural historian Henry-Russell Hitchcock. This collaboration would lead to their co-authored book, The International Style: Architecture Since 1922. The term “International Style” was first used in their book to describe these light-appearing rectilinear forms with taut plane surfaces that have been completely stripped of applied ornamentation and were often constructed from glass and steel. The book would lend its title to the architectural style.
The exhibition is significant for its focused approach to the architectural exhibition. Highly curated in nature, the 1932 exhibition was driven by a desire to promote and consolidate the theory of international modernism. As a result, the principles of International Modernism, as opposed to regional modernist design, rose to the forefront of architectural style and theory.
While most of the architects in the exhibit were European, several Americans including Frank Lloyd Wright were featured. As a result of Wright’s inclusion in the exhibition catalog, the Sullivan House and the Charnley House are specifically mentioned, which I thought is pretty cool. They are mis-labeled as being in “River Springs” in one instance and another instance as “Ocean Springs, Illinois.” I’ve found other documents written by Mr. Hitchcock on the work of Louis Sullivan to contain incorrect information, so the MoMA exhibit is not unique in the error.
I don’t remember a mention of the Sullivan House or the Charnley-Norwood House in The International Style though I might have missed it. I do recall the discussion that tongue and groove boards were one of the few acceptable (to these modernist) surface materials, so Mississippi’s historic building stock would be considered pretty cool by these modernists.