Canadian Modern Offers a New Perspective on Design and Craft in Canada

ROM showcases 100 innovative and iconic examples of Canadian design in wide-ranging new exhibition


TORONTO, November 16, 2022 – Canadian Modern offers a fresh look at modern material culture in Canada through the lens of ROM’s extensive collection, on display from December 3, 2022 through to July 30, 2023. Featuring some of the most well-known names across multiple creative industries, with work from over seventy designers and forty manufacturers, Canadian Modern celebrates close to a century of making in Canada.

Revealing the dynamic ways that makers have incorporated iconic design into showcase pieces as well as familiar everyday objects, Canadian Modern presents Canada's lasting contributions to modern design and craft. The exhibition presents one hundred examples of culturally significant, limited-edition and mass-produced objects designed and crafted in Canada, and the stories of insight, experimentation, and innovation behind them.

From Clairtone’s Project G stereo to the Blackberry smartphone, design and craft have been integral to the story of a distinctly Canadian style and identity. In this new exhibition, curated by Dr. Rachel Gotlieb, with assistance from Dr. Arlene Gehmacher, L.R. Wilson Curator of Canadian Art & Culture at ROM, and Dr. Alexandra Palmer, Nora E. Vaughan Fashion Costume Senior Curator at ROM, visitors will encounter some of most recognizable pieces that speak to Canadian creativity and ingenuity from the early 20th century to today.

“Drawing from ROM’s rich collection, Canadian Modern charts the emergence of a uniquely Canadian craft and design sensibility shaped by the country’s diverse peoples and its vast, awe-inspiring geography,” says Josh Basseches, ROM Director & CEO.

“Canada has a rich and vital craft and design culture that is deserving of recognition and appreciation. By juxtaposing innovation and tradition, mass-produced and one of a kind, the exhibition strives to ask questions and foster debate about what defines Canadian design, as well as to underscore both the challenges and the joy in making,” says Dr. Rachel Gotlieb, Ruth Rippon Curator of Ceramics at The Crocker Art Museum and lead curator of Canadian Modern.

“Design and craft are often in flux, speaking to the moment in reflecting or shaping perspectives and needs,” says Dr. Arlene Gehmacher, L.R. Wilson Curator of Canadian Art & Culture at ROM and assistant curator for Canadian Modern.Canadian Modern allows us to appreciate the ROM's current collections and imagine possible new directions.”

Tracing the trends that have shaped fashion, furniture, jewellery and technology throughout the decades, the exhibition takes visitors on a journey from modernism through the swinging sixties and seventies and into the present day. Drawing inspiration from Canada’s vast natural landscapes alongside era-defining global moments in history from the Bauhaus school to the Space Race, Canadian Modern highlights the diversity and richness of homegrown talent, including leaders in the industry such as Alfred Sung, Michael Massie, Hugh Spencer, Jeremy Laing, Jeff Goodman, Karin Jones, Michael Fortune, and Daphne Odjig.

To showcase the talent of the next generation of designers, ROM partnered with OCAD University. In an open call through OCAD U’s Career Launcher program, current and recent students submitted works ranging from graphic design to fashion. Six student works were selected for display by a jury of distinguished experts: Dr. Elizabeth (Dori) Tunstall, OCADU Dean of Design, Howard Munroe, OCAD U Professor of Design, and Dr. Rachel Gotlieb, lead curator of Canadian Modern. The OCAD University partnership brings the exhibition to the present day to demonstrate how designers from a diverse range of backgrounds contribute to the language of contemporary design and the future of the industry.

The exhibition’s companion publication, Canadian Modern, is written by Dr. Rachel Gotlieb and features contributions from ROM curators Dr. Alexandra Palmer and Dr. Arlene Gehmacher, along with a foreword by Josh Basseches and an afterword by Dr. Elizabeth (Dori) Tunstall. The publication, available this December, highlights designers and manufacturers along with stunning original images of several exceptional objects included in the exhibition.

Image credit: Model showcasing Jacques Guillon chord chair. Photograph by Yale Joel for LIFE Magazine, LIFE 23 Mar 1953. Image Yale Joel/The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock. Used with permission.

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This exhibition is generously supported by the Royal Exhibitions Circle.




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Opened in 1914, ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) showcases art, culture, and nature from around the world and across the ages. Today, ROM houses more than 13 million objects, from Egyptian mummies to contemporary sculpture, from meteorites to dinosaurs. ROM is the most visited museum in Canada and one of the top ten museums in North America. It is also the country’s preeminent field research institute, with a diverse range of experts who help us understand the past, make sense of the present, and shape a shared future. Just as impressive is ROM’s facility—a striking combination of heritage architecture and the cutting-edge Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, which marks the Museum as an iconic landmark and global cultural destination.

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