The New York Museum of Modern Art’s new exhibition Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900-2000 brings together underrepresented elements in design history such as school architecture, clothing, playgrounds, toys, games, furniture and books.
The starting point of the exhibition is the publication of the Century of the Child book in 1900 by Ellen Key, a Swedish design reformer and social theorist. This book marked the beginning of unprecedented attention given to the development and well-being of children. From there, the exhibition explores the individual and collective vision for the material world of children throughout the 20th century, when children became the center of certain architects’ and designers’ work.
Juliet Kinchin, Curator, Department of Architecture & Design and curator of the exhibition told us that the main purpose of the exhibition is to examine “the dynamic relationship between concepts of the modern child and modern design,” adding “in my view the fascination with children and the childlike is not a peripheral concern, but absolutely key to an understanding of modernist design — a preoccupation apparent in every area of designers’ education and practice, and right through the twentieth century.”
“By juxtaposing the materials and products of children’s play with the designs of their elders we point to the creative crosscurrents between the two. Designers have used play to fuel experimentation and innovation, and children are the play experts,” explained Kinchin.
Alex has written for Vanity Fair, Barrons, Bloomberg and Condé Nast Traveler.