Tablescapes: Designs for Dining
This exhibition was on display from October 05, 2018 to April 14, 2019.
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Design has had an enduring impact on the rituals and customs of dining. The centerpiece for Tablescapes: Designs for Dining, which explores three distinct dining moments, is Cooper Hewitt's magnificent surtout de table. On view for the first time in 30 years, this newly conserved masterpiece, designed by Pierre-Philippe Thomire for the stepson of Napoleon Bonaparte, Eugène de Beauharnais, exemplifies how dining at the highest levels of wealth and power in early 19th-century France was a theatrical performance, bringing architecture to the tabletop in an elaborate arrangement of vessels for food.
In the ensuing century, design for dining pivoted to embrace the casual lifestyle that emerged with mass production and the rising middle class. Emerging technologies, decreasing resources, and changing lifestyles will influence the design for dining in the future. To represent these shifts, the surtout de table is accompanied by an installation of table linene from the 1930s designed by American textile designer Marguerita Mergentime, who blended bold colors, typography, and a fascination with American culture and history into her festive designs. And to suggest future directions for dining design, 2017 National Design Award winners Joe Doucet and Mary Ping were commissioned to envision a dining environment to come, one that is adaptable to the needs of a rapidly changning world.