Who are the most underrated 20th-century designers?

James Zemaitis: I do feel that many of the great American industrial designers of the ‘20s and ‘30s from an era that I call the cocktail modernism, because so much of what they designed was tied up with the idea of Americans getting drunk in their own homes because they couldn’t drink publicly. So an entire era of entertainment style design was created ranging from cocktail shakers to coffee tables. There were designers from this era that were criminally neglected, I think, by later generations of writers and historians – designers like Norman Bel Geddes. Donald Deskey may be a household name, but I think still not appreciated. And at the same time I think that many of the great organic designers of the American post-war era are frequently overlooked. I think that one of the funny things is that some of the famous designers who produced the best design do not have any market value. Because the few things that they did were so perfect that they immediately went into production and have continued in production for 50, 60, 70 years; and thus there is nothing for a collector to acquire. The name that immediately comes to mind is the subject of a groundbreaking show that is currently, I believe, at Cranbrook at Michigan, and that would be Ero Saarinen – Saarinen who’s career was short; whose works of art are icons of the American landscape – whether it’s the arch in St. Louis or the TWA Terminal. His furniture was perfect. There are very few prototypes that exist; very few failures that exist. Everything he did really went into production and stayed in production. And so whether it’s his iconic tulip series, or his grasshopper chair which I have one – it’s still only worth like $1,500 – Saarinen is a criminally underrated designer in my world – the auction world – because there is nothing there to sell. He’s too good. He’s too perfect.

Recorded on: 1/30/08

 

 

 

Eero Saarinen, Zemaitis says, is "criminally underrated."

Related Articles

Human skeletal stem cells isolated in breakthrough discovery

It's a development that could one day lead to much better treatments for osteoporosis, joint damage, and bone fractures.

Image: Nissim Benvenisty
Surprising Science
  • Scientists have isolated skeletal stem cells in adult and fetal bones for the first time.
  • These cells could one day help treat damaged bone and cartilage.
  • The team was able to grow skeletal stem cells from cells found within liposuctioned fat.
Keep reading Show less

How exercise helps your gut bacteria

Gut bacteria play an important role in how you feel and think and how well your body fights off disease. New research shows that exercise can give your gut bacteria a boost.

National Institutes of Health
Surprising Science
  • Two studies from the University of Illinois show that gut bacteria can be changed by exercise alone.
  • Our understanding of how gut bacteria impacts our overall health is an emerging field, and this research sheds light on the many different ways exercise affects your body.
  • Exercising to improve your gut bacteria will prevent diseases and encourage brain health.
Keep reading Show less

Giving octopuses ecstasy reveals surprising link to humans

A groundbreaking new study shows that octopuses seemed to exhibit uncharacteristically social behavior when given MDMA, the psychedelic drug commonly known as ecstasy.

Image: damn_unique via Flickr
Surprising Science
  • Octopuses, like humans, have genes that seem to code for serotonin transporters.
  • Scientists gave MDMA to octopuses to see whether those genes translated into a binding site for serotonin, which regulates emotions and behavior in humans
  • Octopuses, which are typically asocial creatures, seem to get friendlier while on MDMA, suggesting humans have more in common with the strange invertebrates than previously thought
Keep reading Show less