This child’s wheelbarrow was conceived in 1923 by the great Dutch designer Gerrit Rietveld. It’s now in “The Century of the Child”, a major design exhibition that opened last week at the Museum of Modern Art, and which I’ve written about for Newsweek. Modernism aimed to bring about a new future, and kids were conceived as its population. That’s why so many of the great modern designers, from Frank Lloyd Wright to Marcel Breuer to the Eamses and Bruno Munari, all worked on schools and toys and children’s books. The most interesting tidbit in the exhibition may be the suggestion that abstract art itself had its roots in ideas about kids, at an absurdly early date: Some of the first rumblings of abstraction came in the educational playthings of the German Friedrich Froebel – starting in the 1820s, when he helped launch kindergarten.
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