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Silver to Steel: The Modern Designs of Peter Muller-Munk

retro blender
Peter Muller-Munk
Waring Blender, model B, 1937; Private collection; Photo: Dallas Museum of Art.

Woot! My pots are being immortalized in a museum! Yup, I’m heading to Pittsburgh late next week for the big opening of the Carnegie Museum of Art’s new exhibit, Silver to Steel: The Modern Designs of Peter Muller-Munk, where my Muller-Munk-designed, New Old Stock Griswold Symbol cookware will be on display. Peter Muller-Munk was one of the most important industrial designers of the 20th century, “a crucial postwar fulcrum….” Let’s take a look — a sneak peek — at the news release and photos with some of the highlights of his career. Muller-Munk’s career started in the 1920s — dig the absolutely iconic skyscraper Waring Blender, above — so Streamline design enthusiasts will enjoy this story, too.

vintage symbol cookware
The Symbol line of cast aluminum cookware (porcelain-enameled steel lids), 1962, was designed by Peter Muller-Munk Associates to help client Griswold, a leader in cast iron cookware since 1865, meet the demands of the contemporary hostess for informal yet stylish oven-to-table entertaining. Carnegie Museum of Art, Gift of Jewel Stern; Photo: Dallas Museum of Art.
Muller-Munk
Photograph of Peter Muller-Munk, 1935; Courtesy of Carnegie Mellon University Archives.

From the Carnegie Museum of Art’s news release:

The Untold Story of a Great American Designer
Silver to Steel: The Modern Designs of Peter Muller-Munk
Opening November 21, 2015 • Carnegie Museum of Art

Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA) announces Silver to Steel: The Modern Designs of Peter Muller-Munk, opening November 21, 2015, in the museum’s Heinz Galleries.

Peter Muller-Munk
Peter Muller-Munk (center) and his colleague Anton Parisson (right) review designs for Westinghouse appliances, 1957; PMMA archives.

Peter Muller-Munk 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.

vintage refrigerator
Peter Muller-Munk Associates; Westinghouse DFC-10 Frost Free refrigerator, 1951; Carnegie Museum of Art; Photo: Tom Little for Carnegie Museum of Art.

With more than 120 works of hand-wrought silver and popular mid-century products, supported by drawings and multimedia interviews, and playfully incorporating period advertising, the exhibition presents the untold story of a man who rose from anonymity as a young silversmith at Tiffany & Co. to become a crucial postwar fulcrum, promoting the practice of industrial design across the globe via a top American design consultancy: Pittsburgh’s Peter Muller-Munk Associates (PMMA).

Vintage one cup coffee maker
Peter Muller-Munk Associates; Cafex Kwik-Cup coffee makers, 1947; Carnegie Museum of Art, Gift of Jewel Stern;
Photo: Tom Little for Carnegie Museum of Art.

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 mass-produced objects. These highly functional and visually striking designs include Bell & Howell cameras, Westinghouse radios and appliances, Griswold cookware, Val Saint Lambert tableware, Porter-Cable power tools, Texaco gas stations and corporate identities, and prototypes in new materials for US Steel. For all its clients the PMMA firm addressed the challenges of a surging postwar consumer culture with vigor and intelligence, producing designs that pleased consumers and became highly successful in the marketplace.

Vintage Camera ad
Advertisement for Bausch & Lomb’s Balomatic slide projector, designed by Peter Muller-Munk Associates. Published in National Geographic, 1957; Carnegie Museum of Art, Promised Gift of Jewel Stern.
vintage iron
Peter Muller-Munk Associates
Silex Air-Lift steam iron, 1949
Carnegie Museum of Art, Gift of Jewel Stern; Photo: Dallas Museum of Art.

Silver to Steel: The Modern Designs of Peter Muller-Munk establishes Muller-Munk, and PMMA, squarely in the canon of mid-century design, and introduces a new audience to a founding father of the field. It reveals the creative side of Pittsburgh, a complement to the city’s industrial might in its manufacturing heyday. Through striking presentations of once familiar objects, the exhibition emphasizes the pervasive influence of good design on everyday life.

vintage radio
Peter Muller-Munk Associates; Westinghouse portable radio, 1951; Carnegie Museum of Art; Photo: Tom Little for Carnegie Museum of Art.

Silver to Steel is organized by Rachel Delphia, The Alan G. and Jane A. Lehman Curator of Decorative Arts and Design at Carnegie Museum of Art and Jewel Stern, guest curator and independent scholar. The exhibition runs November 21, 2015–March 14, 2016. The exhibition catalogue, Silver to Steel: The Modern Designs of Peter Muller-Munk, co-authored by Delphia and Stern, will be published in November by DelMonico Books/Prestel.

Party-with-Pam5
I’ll be at the Carnegie’s Mad Men & Martinis Party — come on over and say hi! Click here to get the details including where to buy your tickets.

Links:

peter-muller-munk
There’s a book, too! Click here to get it on Amazon (affiliate link)

  1. Janet in ME says:

    Very interesting article! On craigslist I found a similar fridge to the 1960 one featured once before, and posted it on the forum just last week. It is still available from what I can tell because it isn’t cheap at $600. It isn’t quite as fancy as the one featured but definitely has the middle drawer and similar look and it is YELLOW. Check out http://phoenix.craigslist.org/nph/app/5254506651.html

  2. Janet in ME says:

    And it runs – “Works perfectly” and looks very clean! Too bad it is too late to get it in the exhibit.

  3. pam kueber says:

    You rock rock rock rock rock! I let the Carnegie people know. I bet they go after it in any case! THANK YOU!

  4. Dan says:

    I’m embarrassed to admit I had never heard of Mr Muller-Munk, but his work is every bit as exciting, innovative, and ageless as the better known industrial designers of the time, such as Russell Wright, Henry Dreyfuss, and Norman Bel-Geddes. I’m especially taken with that little coffee maker. It is a wonderful example of how even mundane utensils can be made beautiful.

    What a great excuse to make a trip to Pittsburgh!

  5. Lisa C. says:

    Love the yellow refrigerator! Would look great in my 1969 ranch’s kitchen. If I lived close to Phoenix, I would have to buy it!

  6. tammyCA says:

    Hope the Carnegie gets that icebox for their exhibit..lots of cool designed items. I haven’t heard of Muller-Munk, but I have a retro Waring blendor (green)..by the famed band leader, Fred Waring, not sure if he helped design it or just financially backed it but looks like it was the first real blender that did the job.

  7. jay says:

    Thanks for sharing the photos and links. Really neat that you could make a great addition to a museum exhibit. By the way, your older followers (me included) probably know that the Waring blender was invented by a musician.

  8. jay says:

    A real beauty! Back in the day it was a toss-up between GE and Westinghouse for appliance design and innovation. Both companies made everything for the house from A to Z.

  9. Ed says:

    The local big box home improvement store has a blender quite similar to that on the shelf. Can’t remember the last time I used a blender, but seriously considering picking one up for my bar. That and one of the commercial grade Waring toasters.

  10. DRC says:

    Few remember PMM sadly; the goal of this exhibit is to resurrect his work and influence. Hope you enjoy the exhibition and the opening.

  11. Mark says:

    I was in Pittsburgh that weekend with the Art Deco Society of Washington (ADSW) on an architectural tour. We saw the Muller-Monk exhibit on Sunday, I told the guide about your pots, and that they were in response to new demand for “oven to table” attractive serving pieces.

    Sorry I couldn’t get to the opening party, I try to NEVER miss MadMen theme parties, I’m sure it was a hoot though.

    Hope it was fun for you.
    This exhibit is highly recommended.

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