It is surprising that the important exhibition “Design Since 1945,” organized by Kathryn B. Hiesinger and currently on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, is the first attempt at a global survey of industrial design done since World War II.[1] Such comprehensive assessments have in the past, in this country at least, been associated with New York’s Museum of Modern Art; but the brave venture by Philadelphia reminds us that MOMA’s leadership in this respect is very much in the past.

The first American museum survey of truly modern industrial design was Philip Johnson’s “Machine Art” exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1954. To be sure, there had been precedents. The Metropolitan Museum of Art had presented a long string of...


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