Designing Duo: Tom Lee and Sarah Tomerlin Lee

Co-curated with Thomas Mellins, with research assistance by Anne Regan

This exhibition celebrated Tom Lee (1910-1971) and Sarah Tomerlin Lee (1910-2001), husband and wife for more than three decades, who left a distinctive mark on 20th- century American design. He worked as a theater designer, a department store display director, and chiefly an interior designer, and she was a magazine editor, a department store executive, an advertising copywriter, and ultimately a renowned interior designer. But they were more than simply successful individuals; a designing duo, they sometimes shared clients and, more significantly, shared expertise and experience, culminating in an influential synergy.

As tastemakers, the Lees promoted a sophisticated blend of traditional and contemporary aesthetics—by turns decorative and minimalist—which Sarah called “romantic modernism.” Their work powerfully reflected larger social and cultural forces, from the advance of middle-class consumer culture to the rise of women in the workplace. They used design as an agent of American diplomacy during the Cold War, positioned American fashion on the international stage, and helped make historic preservation an indispensable economic engine of urban redevelopment.

Mr. Albrecht worked with co-curator Thomas Mellins to develop the show’s themes, select artifacts, write exhibition text, and work with the design team.

Coverage in Women’s Wear Daily.

Exhibition and graphic designer: Darling Green
Photographer: Rob Stephenson

The Russel and Mary Wright Design Gallery

The only permanent, in-depth public exhibition of the Wrights’ product design anywhere, this exhibition told the story of how the husband-and-wife team shaped modern American lifestyle – from early experiments in spun aluminum in the 1930s and the colorful rounded forms of American Modern dinnerware to Japanese-inspired patterns and textures decades later. The Design Gallery of over 200 objects was in dialogue with Wright’s masterful estate, Manitoga, and sought to complement the visitor’s tour of the site with an installation both informative and experiential. The beauty of the Wrights’ explorations of form, color, and nature surrounded visitors on the gallery walls, while a central timeline display offered them an opportunity to understand the full trajectory of the Wrights’ remarkable careers as 20th-century domestic innovators. The state-of-the-art exhibition space connected to the main house museum and to an exterior terrace with stunning views of the surrounding woodland landscape.

Working with executive director Allison Cross and director of collections Vivian Linares, Mr. Albrecht developed the exhibition’s themes, selected artifacts, and wrote exhibition text.

Exhibition and graphic designer: Studio Joseph
Exhibition lighting designer: Anita Jorgensen
Photographer: Michael Biondo

Mod New York

Co-curated with Phyllis Magidson

Mod New York: Fashion Takes a Trip explored the full arc of 1960s fashion, shedding new light on a period marked by tremendous and daring stylistic diversity. Featuring more than 70 garments drawn primarily from the Museum’s Costume Collection, the exhibition traced the dramatic transformation in clothing between 1960 and 1973, not only in length and silhouette, but also in materials and methods of textile manufacture. Works by designers as diverse as Mary Quant, Geoffrey Beene, and Pauline Trigère illuminated the communicative powers of fashion in the ’60s—reflecting cultural trends from Beatlemania to Pop and Op Art to infatuation with the “space race,” and social changes like the women’s liberation movement and the radicalism of the counterculture and antiwar movements. Also on display were fine and costume jewelry, shoes, handbags, design renderings, and photographs that captured the spirit of a creative and confrontational era. Accompanied by a 164-page catalog.

Mr. Albrecht worked with co-curator Phyllis Magidson, developed the show’s themes, selected artifacts, wrote exhibition text, identified and worked with the design team.

>See exhibition catalog

Coverage in the New York Times, Vogue, and TIME. Social media included a Facebook Live interview.

Exhibition designer: Studio Joseph
Exhibition graphic designer: Yve Ludwig and Julie Fry
Catalog designer: Yve Ludwig
Photographer: Thomas Loof

Paul Rand

Everything Is Design: The Work of Paul Rand featured more than 200 advertisements, posters, corporate brochures, and books by this master of American design. It was Rand who most creatively brought European avant-garde art movements such as Cubism and Constructivism to graphic design in the United States. His philosophy, as expressed in his work and writings, including the recently republished 1947 Thoughts on Design, argued that visual language should integrate form and function. Born in Brooklyn in humble circumstances, Rand (1914-1996) launched his career in the 1930s with magazine cover design and, starting in the early 1940s, he worked as an art director on Madison Avenue, where he helped revolutionize the advertising profession. He later served as design consultant to leading corporations like IBM, ABC, UPS, and Steve Jobs’s NeXT, for whom he conceived comprehensive visual communications systems, ranging from packaging to building signage, all grounded in recognizable logos, many of which are still in use today. Rand’s influence was extended by students he taught at Yale University. His visually stimulating, yet problem-solving, approach to graphic design attracted devoted admirers during his own lifetime and he remains influential today. Mr. Albrecht developed the themes of the show, selected all artifacts, wrote exhibition text, and assembled the design team.

Coverage in the Wall Street Journal, Modernism magazine,,,,, and live television segment on NBC New York

“Mr. Rand didn’t invent branding, but he did it as well as anyone ever has or is likely to, a point driven home in an entertaining and enlightening way in ‘Everything is Design.’”
Ken Johnson, New York Times, February 26, 2015

Exhibition designer: Perrin Studio
Photographer: John Halpern and Filip Wolak (opening reception image only)

David Webb: Society’s Jeweler

This exhibition explored David Webb as a jewelry designer whose work was realized with technical mastery and who was viewed as a high-society figure whose clientele included Jacqueline Kennedy, Doris Duke, and Diana Vreeland. The exhibition brought together some 80 extraordinary examples of Webb jewelry: necklaces, rings, and other pieces rendered in hammered gold, jade, coral, enamel, and precious stones. In addition, the exhibition featured preparatory drawings and special displays that offered behind-the-scenes perspectives on the making of Webb jewelry. Artworks, photographs, publications, and advertisements situated Webb within the visual culture of the 1960s.

Mr. Albrecht developed the idea of the show, selected all artifacts, wrote exhibition text, and assembled the design team


Special featured segment on CBS Sunday Morning
March 2, 2014

Exhibition designers: Peter Pennoyer and Katie Ridder
Exhibition graphic designer: Hilary Jordan/Norton Museum of Art
Installation photographer: John Halpern

Keep Calm and Carry On

Keep Calm and Carry On traced developments in architecture, engineering, urban planning, fashion, graphics, media, and product and automotive design between 1938 and 1951, a tumultuous 13-year period that spanned the run-up to World War II and its immediate aftermath. From 1939 to 1945, Britain’s creative class mobilized to win the war on the home front. Wartime initiatives spurred new levels of design innovation in a wide range of fields, explored in the exhibition with fashions, furniture, posters, drawings, photographs, films, and ephemera. The end of the war in 1945 accelerated progressive trends that had been launched during the war and were furthered with a series of postwar exhibitions presenting new and innovative ideas. Accompanied by a 128-page catalog.

Mr. Albrecht conceived the exhibitions themes and organization, identified its designers, selected all artifacts, wrote exhibition wall text, and edited and wrote the primary essays in the catalog.

>See exhibition catalog

Exhibition and catalog design: Pure+Applied
Photographs: John Halpern

D.D. and Leslie Tillett

Co-curated with Phyllis Magidson and Phyllis Ross

The World of D.D. and Leslie Tillett rediscovered the artistic and social visions of a New York-based husband-and-wife team of innovators in the field of textile design. Beginning in 1946, D.D. Tillett and Leslie Tillett created handcrafted fabrics for fashion and interiors. These textiles strikingly blended traditional imagery with bold, modern color and were often achieved via inventive printing techniques. The Tilletts simultaneously espoused a vision of design as a tool for social change through their activism, writing, and teaching. Tillett textiles caught the eye of top interior designers and style icons such as Jacqueline Kennedy, Albert Hadley, and Brooke Astor, lifting the Tilletts to the top of their field, making them an important but untold part of the story of the creation of midcentury modernism.

Working with the co-curators, Mr. Albrecht developed the show’s themes and organization, selected all of its artifacts, and wrote exhibition wall text.

Co-curators: Phyllis Magidson and Phyllis Ross
Exhibition designer: Cindy Sirko
Photographs: John Halpern

I Have Seen the Future

Traveled to the Museum of the City of New York in the fall of 2013 and the Wolfsonian, Miami Beach, Florida, in spring 2014

I Have Seen the Future: Norman Bel Geddes Designs America was the first major traveling retrospective to explore the figure the New York Times recently dubbed “the Leonardo de Vinci of the 20th century.” When you drive on an interstate highway, attend a multimedia Broadway show, dine in a sky-high revolving restaurant, or watch a football game in an all-weather stadium, you owe a debt of gratitude to Bel Geddes.
A promethean figure who was equally comfortable in the realms of fact and fantasy, Geddes was both a visionary and a pragmatist who had a significant role in shaping not only modern America, but also the nation’s image of itself as leading the way into the future. The exhibition brought together some 250 artifacts, drawings, films, and photographs that charted Bel Geddes’s career designing stage sets, costumes, and lighting; creating theater buildings, offices, nightclubs, and houses, as well as their furnishings, from vacuum cleaners to cocktail sets; and authoring oracular books and articles that landed him and his prophesies on the front page of newspapers across the country. Accompanied by a 400-page catalog.

Working with an international group of scholars, Mr. Albrecht developed the idea of the show, selected artifacts, co-authored exhibition text, and edited and contributed to the catalog.

> See exhibition catalog

Articles in Metropolis magazine (print and digital editions) and the New York

“As exhibition titles go, I Have Seen the Future: Norman Bel Geddes Designs America might seem a bit hyperbolic, though really it’s not. If anything, it would be difficult to overstate the trajectory of this prolific polymath, whose bold futuristic imaginings, coupled with a belief in the transformative power of art, architecture and design, drove him to rethink everything from Broadway theater sets and department-store window displays to the look of vacuum cleaners, cocktail shakers, the automobile, the circus tent and an interstate highway system.”
Ann S. Lewis, Wall Street Journal
September 10, 2012

“The Museum of the City of New York, which over the last few years has developed a sideline in mounting some of the best architecture and design exhibitions in town, has just dug into Bel Geddes’s archives at the University of Texas and produced a spectacular show that, if nothing else, will put him back front and center in the design consciousness. The exhibition, curated by Donald Albrecht, is the first full-scale Bel Geddes retrospective ever mounted, covering his entire career.”
Paul Goldberger, Vanity Fair
October 22, 2013

“….Geddes never quite found a place in the pantheon of American high style designers, and the fascinating survey that the curator Donald Albrecht has put on at the Museum of the City of New York therefore comes as something of a rediscovery.”
Martin Filler, New York Review of Books
November 13, 2013

Associate curators: Cathy Henderson and Helen Baer/Harry Ransom Center

Made in New York

For the 2012 re-launch of the South Street Seaport Museum, Made in New York featured work by established and emerging designers practicing throughout the city.

Mr. Albrecht identified the featured designers and selected all artifacts.

Exhibition design: Cooper Joseph Studio
Graphic design: Pure + Applied
Photographs: John Halpern

Future at Home

The Future at Home: American Furniture, 1940–1955, on view during the Museum of the City of New York’s presentation of Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future, displayed furniture, textiles, and decorative objects by Saarinen and his contemporaries who shared an interest in new forms and materials and the goal of providing good design to the broadest possible public. Most of the featured artifacts, designed by figures such as Charles Eames, Ralph Rapson, Oscar Stonorov, and Willo von Moltke, were exhibited here for the first time.

Mr. Albrecht and his co-curator conceived the idea of the show, selected all the artifacts, wrote the exhibition text, and identified the designer.

Feature article in the New York Times

Co-curator: Phyllis Ross
Exhibition designer: Perrin Studio
Installation photographer: Adam Friedberg