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

Gerard Ortiz

This summertime, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Style and design Museum will existing the initially monographic exhibition in a lot more than 50 several years on designer and weaver Dorothy Liebes (1897–1972). Between the most influential designers of the 20th century, Liebes formed American tastes in regions from interiors and transportation to industrial layout, style and movie. On check out July 7 as a result of Feb. 4, 2024, “A Dark, A Gentle, A Shiny: The Patterns of Dorothy Liebes” will feature far more than 125 performs, which includes textiles, textile samples, fashion, furnishings, documents and photos.

“A Dim, A Mild, A Vibrant: The Layouts of Dorothy Liebes” is arranged by Susan Brown, associate curator and acting head of textiles at Cooper Hewitt, and Alexa Griffith Winton, manager of material and curriculum at Cooper Hewitt.

“Through her experimental studio apply, Liebes pioneered a new role for the textile designer as a husband or wife to sector,” Brown mentioned. “This exhibition will expose the scope of her effect on the colours and textures of fashionable fashions and furnishings from the 1930s by means of the 1960s.”

“Liebes experienced unparalleled influence on what modern-day structure in American intended by way of her operate as a designer, advisor, educator and mentor,” Winton reported. “We are thrilled to share the comprehensive spectrum of her achievements with new audiences and to add her contributions back into the historical past of 20th-century layout.”

From the 1930s via the 1960s, Liebes collaborated with some of the most prominent architects and designers of the time, which include Frank Lloyd Wright, Henry Dreyfuss, Donald Deskey, Raymond Loewy and Samuel Marx, on commissions ranging from Doris Duke’s Honolulu house Shangri-la to the United Nations Delegates’ Eating Area. Vogue designers, including Pauline Trigère, Adrian and Bonnie Cashin, also utilised her fabrics, yielding some of the most distinctively American fashions of the mid-20th century. Her lavish handwoven fabrics combined vivid color, lush textures, unanticipated supplies and a glint of metallic—a fashion that grew so commonplace it became recognised as the “Liebes Appear.” This exhibition’s title is a nod to her recipe for developing a profitable coloration plan for the residence or in style: “a dim, a light, a vibrant.”

In spite of widespread recognition throughout Liebes’ life time, the affect of her very long and successful occupation has been mainly missed in modern scholarship. The Dorothy Liebes Papers at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art—first digitized and printed on line in September 2021—reveal the scope of Liebes’ collaborations with architects and industrial designers, her placement as a revered structure authority, her purpose as an international ambassador for modern day textiles and her dedication to the experimental layout practice that was the hallmark of the Dorothy Liebes Studio. 

Structured in five sections, “A Dim, A Light-weight, A Bright” opens with an introduction to Liebes and vital early will work, together with the prize-profitable Schiaparelli panel for the 1937 Paris Exposition and objects related to the 1939 Golden Gate Exposition exactly where Liebes formulated and articulated her eyesight for the position of handcraft in modern design and style. A five-minute documentary film, alongside with a wall graphic that maps critical projects and professional achievements, illustrates the broad vary of her collaborative work.

The up coming segment, The Present day Interior, will element illustrations of the handwoven materials that produced Liebes a sought-after collaborator by architects and inside designers. Drapery panels these as a gold and leather-based structure for Adrian’s famed Hollywood salon and a 1947 looped fringe panel for Duke’s Shangri-la showcase Liebes’ distinct tactic to shade, texture and reflectivity. Movies that highlighted her glamorous textiles, like the Barbara Stanwyck nightclub noir Eastside, Westside (1947), correctly show the near conversation concerning textiles, motion and light. 

In The Liebes Seem, initiatives like the Initial Course Observation Lounge aboard the SS United States and American Airlines flagship 747 reveal her company acumen in combining handwoven and ability-loomed fabrics to create dramatic—and really visible—public spaces inside funds. The exhibition will also examine Liebes’ contributions to interiors these kinds of as the Persian Place at the Plaza Resort, the Marco Polo Club at the Waldorf Astoria and the Usonian Exhibition Home, which have been commonly publicized at the time, but later on subsumed below the names of the male architects who headlined the tasks (Dreyfuss, Deskey and Wright, respectively). Illustrations of her collaborations with fashion designers Clare Potter and Cashin will be showcased all through the exhibition to explore the cross-fertilization of fashion and interior design. 

Liebes’ motivation to creating her layouts obtainable at a large vary of price details will be shown in the segment Improved and Much better for Much less and A lot less. On check out will be buyer goods these kinds of as the 1957 Chrysler Plymouth Fury upholstery material and her line for United Wallpaper, Liebes Weaves. As a advisor to big U.S. brand names like Lurex and DuPont Textile Fibers, Liebes formed the improvement of artificial elements in the write-up-war period of time and encouraged their acceptance by designers and buyers.  

The last segment, The Thought Factory, will evoke the studio’s ambiance of creativity and experimentation and will feature Liebes’ individual loom and a assortment of her “Idea Fabrics”—handwoven samples exactly where she explored new elements, shade mixtures and textures—from Cooper Hewitt’s everlasting assortment. This segment will also acknowledge the contributions of a assorted group of studio weavers whose talents were essential to Liebes’ results. 


The exhibition is accompanied by the publication, A Dim, A Light, A Shiny: The Designs of Dorothy Liebes, edited by Brown and Winton (Yale University Push in association with Cooper Hewitt, 2023).


Exhibition and graphic style by Isometric Studio. Book style by Estudio Herrera.


“A Darkish, A Light, A Bright: The Models of Dorothy Liebes” is manufactured feasible with key assist from The Coby Foundation, The Attractive Arts Believe in, the Smithsonian American Women’s Historical past Initiative and the Terra Basis for American Art.

Generous help is provided by the Lily Auchincloss Basis.

This project gained federal support from the Smithsonian Collections Treatment and Preservation Fund, administered by the National Collections Application and the Smithsonian Collections Advisory Committee. Assist is also presented by Elizabeth Whelan, The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, the Lenore G. Tawney Basis, Mergentime Family members Archive and the Samuel H. Kress Basis, administered by the Basis for Improvement in Conservation.

Supplemental support for the publication is provided by the Andrew Mellon Foundation Publications Fund and Moreover: a method of the J.M. Kaplan Fund.


Cooper Hewitt is America’s layout museum. Inclusive, impressive and experimental, the museum’s dynamic exhibitions, education and learning plans, master’s application, publications and on the net methods inspire, educate and empower people today by means of design. An integral component of the Smithsonian Institution—the world’s premier museum, education and learning and exploration complex—Cooper Hewitt is found on New York City’s Museum Mile in the historic, landmark Carnegie Mansion. Steward of one particular of the world’s most numerous and extensive style and design collections—over 215,000 objects that vary from an historical Egyptian faience cup courting to about 1100 BC to modern day 3D-printed objects and electronic code—Cooper Hewitt welcomes anyone to find out the great importance of design and its power to modify the entire world. 

For extra info, go to or follow @cooperhewitt on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

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