Modern Views

A new look at Farnsworth and Glass House

To preserve two great American works of art, the National Trust has invited artists to create their own. Modern Views, a fundraising campaign to benefit Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House and Philip Johnson's Glass House—both National Trust Historic Sites—kicked off in June with more than 100 artists, architects, and designers donating works inspired by the two Modernist masterpieces. The art will be sold in an online auction and at live events in New York City and Chicago beginning in September.

The goal of the campaign, underwritten by Sotheby's, is to raise $1 million to support restoration work at Farnsworth House in Plano, Ill., and the Brick House, located on the Glass House site in New Canaan, Conn.

The campaign has inspired provocative reflections about the two sites and their far-reaching influence, says Whitney French, executive director of Farnsworth House. "They represent two incredibly similar and wholly different pieces of architecture," French says. "I think it was really nicely put by a friend of Philip's and a visitor to Farnsworth House who said that Philip's house was earth and Mies' house was heaven."

Artists who have donated work include Annie Leibovitz, Frank Stella, and Vladimir Kagan. Dirk Lohan, Mies' grandson and a fellow of the American Institute of Architects, contributed drawings and models in which he merged the two buildings in various combinations. He says it was "a fascinating process which taught me to recognize the nuances of the similarities and differences [between Farnsworth and Glass House] and made me realize how rich and varied Modernism is."

For Phyllis Lambert, founding director and chair of the board of trustees for the Canadian Centre for Architecture, helping to lead the Modern Views campaign was a natural fit. Lambert was a student of Mies' and a friend of Johnson's. "You think of these buildings, they are more than half of a century, 60 years old, and they're still very avant-garde," Lambert says. "They're wonderful, the whole architectural expression of them."

Lambert reflects on the architects in a book published by Assouline that includes photographs of the artwork and short essays from the artists.

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