Exhibition – Masterpieces of Everyday New York: Objects as Story


Everything, In a Single Thing

The Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at Parsons The New School for Design presents Masterpieces of Everyday New York: Objects as Story

On View June 27 – September 4, 2013

The Sheila C. Johnson Design Center

Parsons The New School for Design

2 West 13th Street, New York


 NEW YORK, June 13, 2013—This summer, the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center (SJDC) at Parsons The New School for Design excavates daily life in New York through the stories of the simple, and not-so-simple, objects that are part of the collective experience of its more than 8 million inhabitants, from historical curios to sidewalk debris, in the exhibition Masterpieces of Everyday New York: Objects as Story, on view June 27 through September 4, 2013.

 For this summer show, curators Margot Bouman and Radhika Subramaniam challenged the diverse faculty at The New School, which includes architects and philosophers, historians and designers, musicians, sociologists, anthropologists and artists, to select objects that brought to life aspects of New York, from the iconic 1972 subway map by Massimo Vignelli to a hand grenade savings bank from 1918-19, which was distributed to children at Armistice celebrations as a way of promoting investment in war bonds by New York financial institutions.

“We were interested in how everyday life in this city is snagged by objects, and in how stories grant luster to the mundane.” said Subramaniam, director and chief curator of the SJDC. “Our objects are handheld, mobile, monumental and even immaterial. Whether well-designed or just well used, they live and survive with us, creating a ripple of small meanings.”

The exhibition features 62 objects in total, accompanied by stories by their respective contributors. Acknowledging the justifiably famous British Museum exhibition and radio program, A History of the World in 100 Objects, the exhibition situates objects as narratives of their time. Objects range from icons great and small from the celestial ceiling of Grand Central Station, Lever House and the Empire State Building, to food carts, subway tokens and the ubiquitous black umbrella (coined “umbrella furvus ubiquitous”); from gum dots on city sidewalks and the makeshift homes of homeless people, to ghost bikes and a small 9/11 memorial placed on a tile at the Union Square subway station. It also includes immaterial ones such as pedestrian walking patterns, the sounds of downstairs neighbors or a morning coffee exchange.

The exhibition was inspired by a new undergraduate curriculum that Parsons will launch this fall, which reconceives art and design education for contemporary times, and includes the core course Objects as History: From Prehistory to Industrialization. “The new curriculum has given us an opportunity to really rethink the way the art history survey is taught to first-year art and design students,” said Bouman, director of Academic Affairs of the School of Art and Design History and Theory at Parsons. “We’ve done away with the survey textbook, and will instead use New York’s world-class collections as our classroom. We want our students to understand these objects as expressions and embodiments of particular places and times, and prepare them to connect their practice to New York City, and to the world.”

This summer, the SJDC is hosting a pair of other exhibitions:  the 2013 Architectural League Prize for Young Architects + Designers: Range (June 25-August 1, 2013) and the Parsons MFA Photography thesis exhibition (August 12-September 3, 2013).  

The Sheila C. Johnson Design Center is an award-winning campus center for Parsons The New School for Design that combines learning and public spaces with exhibition galleries to provide an important new downtown destination for art and design programming. The mission of the Center is to generate an active dialogue on the role of innovative art and design in responding to the contemporary world. Its programming encourages an interdisciplinary examination of possibility and process, linking the university to local and global debates. The center is named in honor of its primary benefactor, New School Trustee and Parsons Board Chair Sheila C. Johnson. The design by Lyn Rice Architects is the recipient of numerous awards, including an Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects. For more information please visit 

Parsons The New School for Design is one of the leading institutions for art and design education in the world. Based in New York but active around the world, the school offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the full spectrum of art and design disciplines. Critical thinking and collaboration are at the heart of a Parsons education. Parsons graduates are leaders in their respective fields, with a shared commitment to creatively and critically addressing the complexities of life in the 21st century. For more information, please visit www.newschool.edu/parsons.

General Information

Location: 2 West 13th Street, New York

Gallery hours: Open daily 12:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. and Thursday evenings until 8:00 p.m. Closed all major holidays and holiday eves.

Admission: Free

Info: Please contact 212.229.8919 or visit www.newschool.edu/sjdc

Read what The Atlantic CitiesTime Out New York, Huffington PostPapermag, Deliberately Considered, art&education, and The Art Newspaper have to say about the exhibition!  

Visit the exhibition’s facebook page.



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