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Aluminum By Design

Price: $60.00

By Sarah Nichols


From its application as a lowly soda pop container to its dramatic use in jewelry, furniture, and contemporary haute couture, aluminum has enjoyed multiple uses in its enduring life. Once considered more precious than gold, the earth’s most abundant metal transformed twentieth-century culture in the United States and the world as it increasingly became the material of choice for everything from pots and pans to roller blades and robots.


The Wolfsonian-Florida International University presented Aluminum by Design: Jewelry to Jets, an exhibition organized by Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh that drew extensively on the Wolfsonian’s permanent collection. The exhibit showcased more than 180 objects that trace the history of aluminum from its debut at the 1855 Paris Exhibition as an exotic metal used in luxury goods to its present use in high technology. The show was on view at The Wolfsonian–FIU, from December 15, 2001 to April 7, 2002. Following its Wolfsonian presentation, the exhibition traveled to the Cranbrook Art Museum, Detroit, and the Design Museum, London, England.


Among the Wolfsonian’s contributions to the show were a sleek Sears Roebuck Imperial Kenmore vacuum cleaner, designed in 1930; a curvaceous 1940s Hobart Streamliner meat slicer; an array of futuristic furniture; and world’s fair memorabilia. Due in part to its initial scarcity (only in 1886 was its large-scale extraction from the earth’s crust possible), aluminum was used selectively, substituting for heavier metals in precision instruments as well as in architectural ornaments. As quantities quickly grew by the turn of the century, commercial aluminum industries in the United States and Europe began seeking out and developing sustainable mass-production markets for goods such as cast aluminum cookware. By alloying it with other metals, aluminum gained strength without adding weight, making it feasible for use in high-speed trains and the all-metal airplane.


Exhibition dates: December 15, 2001-April 7, 2002
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams; 1st edition, October 1, 2000
Softcover: 300 pages , 13.3" x 9.8"
ISBN-10: 9780810967212