Donald Albrecht

I Have Seen the Future:
Norman Bel Geddes
Designs America

Harry Ransom Center,
University of Texas at Austin

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

Donald Albrecht