The Museum of Modern Art: Kitchen Exhibit

Explore the origins of the modern kitchen in this online tour of the Museum of Modern Art's Counter Space: Design and the Modern Kitchen exhibit.

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    Kitchen History

    The Museum of Modern Art explores the evolution of kitchen design with the new exhibit, Counter Space: Design and the Modern Kitchen, which opens September 15 and runs through March 14. The museum recently acquired a complete example of the iconic Frankfurt Kitchen, originally designed in 1926.

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    Frankfurt Kitchen

    The Frankfurt Kitchen was designed by Grete Schutte-Lihotzky and is the earliest work by a female architect in the museum's collection. Thousands of these compact and ergonomic kitchens were manufactured in Germany to meet the housing crisis following the war.

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    Thoughtful Design

    Hallmarks of the Frankfurt Kitchens were that they were standardized with each kitchen element carefully arranged in order to minimize steps and increase ergonomics. Lihotzky's kitchens were "about a vision of really making a lot of women's lives easier," says Juliet Kinchin, MOMA curator of the exhibit.

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    Storage Innovations

    Among the kitchen's storage and design features were pouring bins for dry goods such as flour and sugar. The kitchens also came with a freestanding stool, drop-down ironing board, and a built-in worktable.

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    Original Frankfurt Kitchen

    Roughly 10,000 Frankfurt kitchens were installed in apartments throughout Germany during the housing crisis. An original is pictured here.

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    Morning Coffee

    Peppered throughout the exhibit are examples of kitchen gadgets, such as the Chemex coffeemaker, designed in 1941 by Peter Schlumbohm. Made of heat-resistant glass, and wood with a leather strap, the Chemex is an example of a product developed as rations for metal shifted the focus to using other materials.

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    1940s Cookware

    Another kitchen gadget featured in the exhibit is this frying pan made of heat-resistant glass and steel, designed in 1942 by Corning Glass Works.

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    Kitchen Innovation

    The second section of MOMA's exhibit explores functional design and technological innovation with an emphasis on the leisure kitchen, as captured in this collage by Tom Wesselmann (Still Life #30, April 1963).

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    Nostalgic Drinkware

    In the 1950s, color splashed its way into the kitchen, with women playing a larger role in marketing kitchenware by way of "Tupperware parties." The iconic Tupperware tumblers were designed in 1954 by Earl S. Tupper.

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    Mobile Kitchen

    Also on display at MOMA's exhibit is this mobile kitchen unit, designed in 1968 and manufactured by Snaidero, an Italian kitchen company.

    Go to the next slide to see how the unit expands.

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    Kitchen Expansion

    The Snaidero kitchen unit completely unfolds to reveal a refrigerator, cooktop, and storage for pantry items and pots and pans.

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