The design collection at Carnegie Museum of Art is especially strong in objects made in aluminum, an industrial material deeply associated with Pittsburgh.
In the years following its invention in the 1850s, aluminum was used in imitation of older, more established materials, like bronze, silver, and gold. Pittsburgh's special relationship with the material dates to the founding of Alcoa (the Aluminum Company of America) in the city in 1888. In the 20th century, designers embraced the material for its own unique properties, exploiting its lightness, resistance to corrosion, and reflective surfaces. Between the two world wars, the material came to represent the Modernist ideal, epitomizing the streamlined, industrial world. Today, despite the ubiquity of aluminum in consumer products, designers continue to find new and inventive applications.