A pioneer of modern design, Moser excelled in furniture design, ceramics, jewelry, silverwork and was also an innovative graphic artist
First-ever American retrospective is co-organized with the Neue Galerie New York
Houston—July 2013—This September, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, launches its fall season with a landmark exhibition of the work of Viennese artist and designer Koloman Moser (1868–1918), the first museum retrospective in the United States to focus on this leading figure of the modern design revolution that swept Vienna around 1900. Koloman Moser: Designing Modern Vienna, 1897–1907 surveys Moser's decorative-arts career with 200 objects, from furniture, jewelry, silver and ceramics to graphic design and architectural interiors. The exhibition is on view from September 29, 2013, to January 12, 2014.
The exhibition is co-organized by the MFAH and the Neue Galerie New York, where it opened on May 23, 2013 to critical praise, before coming to Houston, the only other venue.
"The stunning work of Koloman Moser offers insight into the emergence of modern art and design in the fascinating crucible that has come to be known as Vienna 1900," said MFAH director Gary Tinterow. "While contemporaries like Josef Hoffmann and Gustav Klimt are by now household names, Moser and his work will be a revelation for the American public."
"Koloman Moser was an extraordinary designer whose work remains a touchstone over a century later," said Cindi Strauss, MFAH curator of Modern & Contemporary Decorative Arts and Design and coordinating curator of the exhibition in Houston. "This exhibition has been designed to showcase Moser’s remarkable decorative-arts career."
Curated by Dr. Christian Witt-Dörring, the Vienna-based curator of decorative arts for the Neue Galerie, Koloman Moser: Designing Modern Vienna, 1897-1907 features a wide variety of exquisite objects in a range of media and art forms: ceramics, furniture, glass, graphic design and ephemera, jewelry, metalwork, textiles and designs for architectural interiors, objects and other projects.
The exhibition opens with Moser's career as a painter and illustrator in particular, showing works he carried out as co-founder of the Vienna Secession, among them illustrations for their journal Ver Sacrum as well as beautifully evocative posters and other prints. Innovative designs for commercial textiles, glass and ceramics are also featured. The exhibition then delves into furniture design for private clients, including preparatory drawings for major projects.
The final section focuses on Moser’s important role as co-founder of the Wiener Werkstätte (Viennese Workshop), the decorative-arts collective he formed with Josef Hoffmann and patron Fritz Waerndorfer in 1903. It features silver, furniture, jewelry and ephemera designed for the Workshop.
Among the exceptional works in the exhibition are examples of Moser's furniture, such as his iconic painted armchair designed circa 1903, which speaks to his use of the grid and rectilinear forms in his designs from the first decade of the 20th century. Influenced by the English and Scottish Arts and Crafts movement, the armchair’s openwork, slat structure and black-and-white checkerboard seat were revolutionary in their modernism. However, even the smallest of decorative elements evince his meticulous eye as seen in a 1904 belt buckle that combines luxurious materials, such as opals and silver, in an elegant design. Moser’s sensitive handling of color, texture and light are apparent in its execution. Glass was another particular medium in which Moser excelled. He designed many intricate functional and ornamental glass pieces for the firm E. Bakalowits Söhne, including an iridescent glass vase—also on view in the exhibition—that speaks to the influence of the Art Nouveau style at the turn of the 20th century.
A fully illustrated catalogue, published by Prestel, accompanies the exhibition.
About Koloman Moser (1868–1918)
Koloman Moser began his studies in drawing in Vienna, contributing graphic art to magazines early in his career. In 1897, Moser served as a founding member of the avant-garde Vienna Secession—a collaborative of progressive artists and architects, including Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), Josef Hoffmann (1870-1956) and Joseph Maria Olbrich (1867-1908), that strove to cultivate a new modern style. Their belief in the Gesamtkunstwerk, or total work of art, informed Moser’s creative philosophy as well as his diverse output. In 1903, he co-founded the Wiener Werkstätte, whose philosophy was based on Arts and Crafts principals, and for whom he designed silver, jewelry and furniture. He also had productive collaborations with industry leaders who produced his textiles, ceramics and glass designs.
Organization and Funding
This exhibition is co-organized by the Neue Galerie New York and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
Generous funding is provided by:
John R. Eckel, Jr. Foundation
The Susan Vaughan Foundation
The Margaret Cooke Skidmore Exhibition Endowment
Dr. Marjorie G. Horning
Dale Family Foundation / Michael Dale
Jo and Jim Furr / Gensler
Ms. Cecily E. Horton
Anne Lamkin Kinder
Karol Kreymer / Robert J. Card M.D.
Mithoff Family Foundation
The Schissler Foundation
Leslie and Shannon Sasser
Louis H. Skidmore, Jr.
About the Neue Galerie New York
The mission of the Neue Galerie New York is to collect, preserve, research, and exhibit fine art and decorative arts of Germany and Austria from the first half of the twentieth century, and in particular to examine their role in the emergence and development of modern art. The museum exhibits works from its own collection, as well as from other institutions and private collections through loans, and is committed to furthering scholarship on the fine and decorative arts from Germany and Austria of this period. Scholarly publications, as well as lectures, films and other educational programs accompany its exhibitions. Neue Galerie New York cooperates with museums and other institutions for the realization of exhibitions and research projects.
About the MFAH
Founded in 1900, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, is among the 10 largest art museums in
the United States. Located in the heart of Houston’s Museum District, the MFAH comprises two gallery buildings, a sculpture garden, theater, two art schools and two libraries, with two house museums, for American and European decorative arts, nearby. The encyclopedic collection of the MFAH numbers some 65,000 works and embraces the art of antiquity to the present.
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