A Designed Life: Contemporary American Textiles, Wallpapers, and Containers & Packaging, 1951–1954

June 12–September 19, 2021

Chicago Cultural Center, Room 108, 1st Floor South

Expo 72, 72 E. Randolph St.

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A Designed Life: Contemporary American Textiles, Wallpapers, and Containers & Packaging, 1951–1954

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The Design Museum is thrilled to bring the traveling exhibition, A Designed Life: Contemporary American Textiles, Wallpapers, and Containers & Packaging, 1951–1954, from University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture (CADVC) to Chicago.

A Designed Life is an exhibition based on three historically significant traveling exhibitions of contemporary, mass-produced, American-designed consumer goods that were commissioned by the U.S. Department of State in the early 1950s. It recreates those early Cold War exhibitions — featuring American textiles, wallpapers, containers, and packaging — restating and interpretin part of each display as it might have appeared in the early 1950s.

By this time, the United States and Soviet Union were engaged in the Cold War. Extensive propaganda campaigns were part of both countries’ strategy for extending their spheres of influence. As part of this strategy, the United States Department of State developed a series of elaborate traveling exhibits that created an attractive portrait of contemporary America. The three exhibits organized in 1951 by the Traveling Exhibition Service that are recreated in A Designed Life include:

  • Contemporary American Textiles, designed by Florence Knoll;
  • Contemporary American Wallpapers, designed by Tom Lee;
  • Containers and Packaging, designed by Will Burtin
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