How does American 20th-century design compare to Europe's?

James Zemaitis: I think that it’s still absurdly underrated in terms of its market value. I think that what we are seeing now is that in this blurring of boundaries between design, art, and craft, the uncertainties that we all have – the curators and professionals in my field have in branding or typecasting design, art, and craft, and what is it. I mean you can see that in the Museum of Art and Design – their decision to change their name from the American Craft Museum – what we are discovering however, and I think what Europeans are discovering right now is all of these great American furniture designers in the ‘60s and ’70s who in many cases worked in very isolated circumstances – the kind of proverbial hippie in the woods. California had dozens and dozens of brilliant furniture designers who exhibited only in California in the ‘60s and ‘70s. And if they exhibited nationally it was at a place like the Renwick in Washington, D.C. Right now for the first time, I really feel that we are beginning to understand an international, post-war, organic kind of woodworking vibe that is predominantly American but has contributions from France, from Denmark, from Brazil. But it’s the Americans who are being, you know, increasingly sought after. And it’s hilarious that there is five or six furniture designers working in, say, New Hope, Pennsylvania and Lambertville, New Jersey; who, you know, 10 years ago a work by Paul Evans – a guy who worked in New Hope – I mean I couldn’t give the piece away. It would be $2,000, you know, for a sideboard of his that is now worth $250,000. So . . . And who is driving that market? The Europeans.

Recorded on: 1/30/08




Europeans are discovering 20th-century American design - and driving up prices.

Live on Thursday: Learn innovation with 3-star Michelin chef Dominique Crenn

Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live this Thursday at 1pm ET.

Big Think LIVE

Add event to your calendar

AppleGoogleOffice 365OutlookOutlook.comYahoo

Keep reading Show less

Want students to cheat less? Science says treat them justly

Students who think the world is just cheat less, but they need to experience justice to feel that way.

Credit: Roman Pelesh/Shutterstock
Surprising Science
  • Students in German and Turkish universities who believed the world is just cheated less than their pessimistic peers.
  • The tendency to think the world is just is related to the occurence of experiences of justice.
  • The findings may prove useful in helping students adjust to college life.
Keep reading Show less

A key COVID-19 immune response in children has been identified

This could change how researchers approach vaccine development.

Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images
  • The reason children suffer less from the novel coronavirus has remained mysterious.
  • Researchers identified a cytokine, IL-17A, which appears to protect children from the ravages of COVID-19.
  • This cytokine response could change how researchers approach vaccine development.
Keep reading Show less

A new minimoon is headed towards Earth, and it’s not natural

Astronomers spot an object heading into Earth orbit.

Credit: PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek/Paitoon Pornsuksomboon/Shutterstock/Big Think
Surprising Science
  • Small objects such as asteroids get trapped for a time in Earth orbit, becoming "minimoons."
  • Minimoons are typically asteroids, but this one is something else.
  • The new minimoon may be part of an old rocket from the 1960s.
  • Keep reading Show less

    Study calls out the genes that make cancer cells so hard to kill

    Researchers from the University of Toronto published a new map of cancer cells' genetic defenses against treatment.

    Credit: CI Photos/Shutterstock
    Surprising Science
  • Developing immunotherapies for cancers is made more difficult by how different tumors are from each other.
  • Some cancers are actually made worse by immunotherapy.
  • A piece falls into place on the complicated puzzle of genetic interactions of cancer cells.
  • Keep reading Show less