The untold story of one of the preeminent industrial designers of the mid-20th century
A German émigré to the US who moved to Pittsburgh in 1935, Peter Muller-Munk (1904–1967) was a brilliant silversmith, a pioneering industrial designer and educator, and a visionary spokesperson for his profession. Silver to Steel is the first retrospective of his four-decade career, and it situates Muller-Munk among the most influential designers of his generation. With more than 120 works of hand-wrought silver and popular midcentury products, supported by drawings, multimedia interviews, and period advertising, this exhibition presents the untold story of a man who rose from anonymity as a young silversmith at Tiffany & Co. to become a crucial postwar designer, promoting the practice of industrial design across the globe through one of the top design consultancies in America: Pittsburgh-based Peter Muller-Munk Associates (PMMA).
The exhibition opens with Muller-Munk’s celebrated Modernist silver of the 1920s and 1930s. His best-known designs—the streamlined Normandie pitcher (1935) and the skyscraper-inspired Waring Blendor (1937)—reveal his transition from silversmith to industrial designer and herald an eye-opening presentation of his previously undocumented mass-produced objects. These highly functional and visually striking designs include cameras, radios, cocktail coolers, power tools, and refrigerators; and total environments for gas stations, international expositions, and mass-transit vehicles. PMMA’s contributions to public projects like the famous Unisphere for the 1964 World’s Fair, have been overlooked for decades. The firm counted Alcoa, Bayer, Bell & Howell, Bissell, Mellon Bank, Pittsburgh-Corning, Silex, SOHIO, Texaco, US Steel, Waring, and Westinghouse among its scores of national clients. For these and other firms Muller-Munk produced thousands of designs.
Silver to Steel will reestablish Muller-Munk’s position as one of the preeminent industrial designers of the mid-20th century and provide visitors the opportunity to explore the impact of good design on everyday life.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue produced by Carnegie Museum of Art and DelMonico Books/Prestel.
Silver to Steel is co-organized by Rachel Delphia, The Alan G. and Jane A. Lehman Curator of Decorative Arts and Design, and Jewel Stern, independent scholar and curator.