The ROM to showcase 100 examples of Canadian design in new exhibition

The Canadian Modern exhibition at the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) offers a fresh look at modern material culture in Canada 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.

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.

“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. 

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. 

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. 

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 OCADU’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, OCADU Professor of Design, and Dr. Rachel Gotlieb, 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.”