What Doesn't Make an Icon

Why some designs remain in production while others disappear

In 1970, MOMA released The Design Collection: Selected Objects, a slim, spiral-bound omnibus of works the Architecture and Design department had acquired since the collection's beginnings in 1934. The book is a jumble of Art Nouveau oddities, enduring forms, and precursors to modern classics. (Gunnar Aagaard Andersen's 1964 urethane foam armchair, dubbed a "curious brown anti-object" by then-director Arthur Drexler, bears a surprising similarity to Jerszy Seymour's Scum collection.) But sprinkled throughout are a handful of smart, directional, now forgotten objects that, if picked up by high-end retailers or knocked off by Ikea today, would surely become top sellers.

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