When one thinks of utopian religious sects, architecture and furniture design may not immediately come to mind. The Shakers break the mold. In a new installation that opened in early July, “Simple Gifts: Shaker at the Met”, the Metropolitan Museum of Art spotlights nearly two dozen objects that exemplify 19th-century Shaker furniture, textiles, and domestic objects.
Although the Shaker’s extreme beliefs and insular lifestyle never quite permeated the mainstream, their efficient yet innovative approach to household objects continues to impact contemporary design. Each unique piece in the installation demonstrates how the Shakers streamlined the design of everyday objects through utilitarian structure, lack of decoration, and use of lightweight materials.
On view through June 25, 2017, Simple Gifts accompanies a complete 19th-century Shaker interior within the American Wing’s suite of historic interiors. The installation is also installed alongside a video projection of Martha Graham performing the ballet Appalachian Spring on a stage set designed by Isamu Noguchi. Both artists drew inspiration from Shaker life.