Machine Art, 1934

Jennifer Jane Marshall

The University of Chicago Press

2013 Robert Motherwell Book Award Winner


Machine Art, 1934 tells the story of the major exhibition, organized by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, that first presented contemporary industrially made objects as works of art. That exhibition, titled Machine Art, displayed items such as cutlery, boiling flasks, propellers, sinks, and other mass produced objects, and situated them within a dialogue on modern art. Although controversial, the exhibition was widely popular and allowed the public to reconsider concepts about beauty and value.


Through this exhibition, Marshall deftly explores the many conceptual and cultural influences that defined American modernism. She explicitly places the exhibition within the historical context of the inter-war period and the Great Depression, arguing that developments in the form and function of objects are intrinsically tied to cultural and philosophical forces, and can serve as reactions to historical events.


Jennifer Jane Marshall is Assistant Professor of North American Art at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.