Cooper Hewitt To Present Monographic Exhibition on Designer and Weaver Dorothy Liebes

Micheal Johnson

This summer time, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Layout Museum will present the first monographic exhibition in extra than 50 decades on designer and weaver Dorothy Liebes (1897–1972). Among the the most influential designers of the 20th century, Liebes formed American preferences in spots from interiors and transportation to industrial layout, manner and movie. On check out July 7 by Feb. 4, 2024, “A Dark, A Gentle, A Vivid: The Designs of Dorothy Liebes” will aspect more than 125 works, which includes textiles, textile samples, manner, furniture, documents and photos.

“A Dim, A Gentle, A Shiny: The Models of Dorothy Liebes” is organized by Susan Brown, associate curator and performing head of textiles at Cooper Hewitt, and Alexa Griffith Winton, manager of content and curriculum at Cooper Hewitt.

“Through her experimental studio apply, Liebes pioneered a new role for the textile designer as a partner to field,” Brown claimed. “This exhibition will reveal the scope of her affect on the colors and textures of modern fashions and furnishings from the 1930s as a result of the 1960s.”

“Liebes experienced unparalleled impact on what contemporary structure in American intended as a result of her function as a designer, specialist, educator and mentor,” Winton mentioned. “We are thrilled to share the full spectrum of her achievements with new audiences and to increase her contributions back again into the heritage of 20th-century style.”

From the 1930s as a result of the 1960s, Liebes collaborated with some of the most prominent architects and designers of the time, which includes Frank Lloyd Wright, Henry Dreyfuss, Donald Deskey, Raymond Loewy and Samuel Marx, on commissions ranging from Doris Duke’s Honolulu home Shangri-la to the United Nations Delegates’ Dining Room. Vogue designers, which include Pauline Trigère, Adrian and Bonnie Cashin, also made use of her fabrics, yielding some of the most distinctively American fashions of the mid-20th century. Her magnificent handwoven fabrics combined vivid shade, lush textures, unforeseen resources and a glint of metallic—a type that grew so commonplace it grew to become regarded as the “Liebes Search.” This exhibition’s title is a nod to her recipe for producing a successful shade scheme for the dwelling or in style: “a darkish, a gentle, a vivid.”

Despite common recognition through Liebes’ lifetime, the effect of her extended and successful vocation has been largely forgotten in up to date scholarship. The Dorothy Liebes Papers at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art—first digitized and revealed on the net in September 2021—reveal the scope of Liebes’ collaborations with architects and industrial designers, her place as a respected layout authority, her part as an worldwide ambassador for modern-day textiles and her determination to the experimental design and style apply that was the hallmark of the Dorothy Liebes Studio. 

Structured in five sections, “A Dark, A Mild, A Bright” opens with an introduction to Liebes and important early performs, which includes the prize-profitable Schiaparelli panel for the 1937 Paris Exposition and objects associated to the 1939 Golden Gate Exposition where by Liebes formulated and articulated her eyesight for the role of handcraft in present day design. A 5-moment documentary film, alongside with a wall graphic that maps important jobs and specialist achievements, illustrates the broad assortment of her collaborative do the job.

The future segment, The Fashionable Inside, will function examples of the handwoven materials that manufactured Liebes a sought-just after collaborator by architects and interior designers. Drapery panels such as a gold and leather design and style for Adrian’s famed Hollywood salon and a 1947 looped fringe panel for Duke’s Shangri-la showcase Liebes’ distinct method to colour, texture and reflectivity. Films that highlighted her glamorous textiles, like the Barbara Stanwyck nightclub noir Eastside, Westside (1947), efficiently show the near conversation in between textiles, motion and mild. 

In The Liebes Look, initiatives like the Very first Course Observation Lounge aboard the SS United States and American Airlines flagship 747 reveal her business enterprise acumen in combining handwoven and ability-loomed materials to create dramatic—and hugely visible—public spaces in just budget. The exhibition will also look at Liebes’ contributions to interiors these kinds of as the Persian Area at the Plaza Resort, the Marco Polo Club at the Waldorf Astoria and the Usonian Exhibition Household, which ended up extensively publicized at the time, but later subsumed underneath the names of the male architects who headlined the tasks (Dreyfuss, Deskey and Wright, respectively). Illustrations of her collaborations with vogue designers Clare Potter and Cashin will be showcased all over the exhibition to examine the cross-fertilization of vogue and inside design and style. 

Liebes’ commitment to producing her styles obtainable at a huge range of selling price points will be shown in the section Superior and Far better for A lot less and Considerably less. On perspective will be consumer items this kind of as the 1957 Chrysler Plymouth Fury upholstery fabric and her line for United Wallpaper, Liebes Weaves. As a expert to key U.S. manufacturers like Lurex and DuPont Textile Fibers, Liebes shaped the enhancement of artificial components in the post-war time period and encouraged their acceptance by designers and shoppers.  

The final part, The Thought Manufacturing facility, will evoke the studio’s atmosphere of creative imagination and experimentation and will attribute Liebes’ personalized loom and a choice of her “Idea Fabrics”—handwoven samples exactly where she explored new components, shade combos and textures—from Cooper Hewitt’s lasting selection. This portion will also acknowledge the contributions of a numerous group of studio weavers whose skills were critical to Liebes’ accomplishment. 


The exhibition is accompanied by the publication, A Dark, A Light-weight, A Vibrant: The Models of Dorothy Liebes, edited by Brown and Winton (Yale University Press in affiliation with Cooper Hewitt, 2023).


Exhibition and graphic design by Isometric Studio. Guide style by Estudio Herrera.


“A Dark, A Mild, A Vivid: The Layouts of Dorothy Liebes” is produced doable with significant guidance from The Coby Foundation, The Attractive Arts Rely on, the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative and the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Generous support is delivered by the Lily Auchincloss Foundation.

This job been given federal guidance from the Smithsonian Collections Treatment and Preservation Fund, administered by the National Collections Application and the Smithsonian Collections Advisory Committee. Help is also presented by Elizabeth Whelan, The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation, Mergentime Spouse and children Archive and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, administered by the Basis for Advancement in Conservation.

Extra assistance for the publication is offered by the Andrew Mellon Basis Publications Fund and In addition: a application of the J.M. Kaplan Fund.


Cooper Hewitt is America’s style museum. Inclusive, modern and experimental, the museum’s dynamic exhibitions, education applications, master’s plan, publications and on line assets encourage, teach and empower persons through structure. An integral component of the Smithsonian Institution—the world’s most significant museum, instruction and investigate complex—Cooper Hewitt is situated on New York City’s Museum Mile in the historic, landmark Carnegie Mansion. Steward of one of the world’s most varied and in depth structure collections—over 215,000 objects that variety from an ancient Egyptian faience cup relationship to about 1100 BC to present-day 3D-printed objects and digital code—Cooper Hewitt welcomes everybody to discover the great importance of style and design and its electric power to change the environment. 

For much more details, take a look at or abide by @cooperhewitt on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

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