Reuben Haley’s Glassware Makes Cubism Work

The Met's rehung modern rooms pair fine-art masterworks with designs of their era.


One more “minor” object from the Metropolitan Museum in New York, for readers on their way to see the other works that recent Daily Pics have been pointing to there. (Or, better yet, for readers who can’t make the trip.) This is a “Ruba Rombic” tumbler designed in the late 1920s by the American Reuben Haley, and now on display in the first tranche of the Met’s reinstalled modern art galleries. (Expect more Daily Pics as new rooms reopen.) One of the lovely things about the reinstallation is that it is willing to set off obvious treasures—by the likes of Picasso, Matisse, and Modigliani—against design objects such as this glass, which would normally be seen as lesser.

The extreme complexity of Picasso’s high cubism becomes clearer when you see it brought down to earth by a designer trying to riff on it. Cubism was about trying, and then failing, to forge a new order of vision. (I’ve written at some length about that attempt.) Whereas this glassware is absolutely successful in giving us something charming to add to our material lives: It was mass-produced and sold in department stores. One of the virtues of a great “encyclopaedic” museum like the Met is that it can give us the glorious, high-flying failures of the greatest art, as well as the everyday successes we live with.

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