A four-month exhibition at the Cranbrook Art Museum will showcase how modern design was inspired and influenced by Michigan industry and design.
The exhibit, which runs from June 14- Oct. 13, will focus on such iconic pieces as the Eames Lounge Chair, the expressive styling of the fins on a Cadillac, corporate campuses like the General Motors Technical Center and office environments revolutionized by Herman Miller.
“In the late 1930s, a remarkable group of artists and designers were at Cranbrook – notably Eliel and Loja Saarinen, their son Eero, faculty members such as Harry Bertoia and promising young students like Charles and Ray Eames, Ralph Rapson, Florence Knoll, and many others,” Gregory Wittkopp, director, Cranbrook Art Museum and Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research said in a statement. “Collaboratively, and then individually, they used the Academy’s studios to experiment and create the furniture and products that became the icons of the 20th century. It is no exaggeration to say that mid-century Modernism was conceived at Cranbrook.”
Eliel Saarinen developed the Cranbrook Educational Center in 1925 at the request of George G. Booth.
Eero Saarinen designed the GM Technical Center in Warren. Other works include the St. Louis Gateway Arch. He also designed such furniture as the “Tulip Chair”, the “Saarinen Executive Arm Chair” and the “Womb Chair.”
According to a Cranbrook release, the exhibit will establish Michigan’s role in American Modernism from the early industrial architecture of Albert Kahn to the role of the automobile and furniture industries that contributed to Michigan’s design explosion after World War II.
The architects and designers met the challenge of a new century with optimism and spirit,” said State Historic Preservation Officer Brian Conway. “What happened in Michigan – in the automotive industry, the furniture industry, in architecture, and in education – influenced design throughout the country and internationally. This project looks to celebrate Michigan’s outstanding contributions to Modern design and the stories of the people who made it happen.”
Cranbrook is also playing host to a cadre of experts in a four-day symposium which began June 13 and ends June 16. The symposium, hosted by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA), Cranbrook Art Museum and MPdL Studios of Ann Arbor, featured discussions of Modernism’s Michigan roots.
Cranbrook Art Museum’s summer Hours (June through August) are Wednesday – Sunday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. (closed, 4th of July and Labor Day); and its academic year Hours (September through June) are Tuesday – Friday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Call the Art Museum Administrative Offices at 248-645-3319 (Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.– 5 p.m.) for additional information.

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