Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service


Archived exhibitions are no longer available for booking but are maintained as a virtual record of past Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) programs.


Out of Time: Designs for the 20th-Century Future

A brilliant yellow cylinder rotates gently in its orbit far above the Earth. Four gleaming winged rockets soar past, while the streak of bright stars that is the Milky Way blinks and glows in deep space beyond. In the 1951 painting Space Station over East Asia, artist Malcolm Smith expressed both America's confidence in technological achievement and the country's hopes for the future in space and on Earth.

In Out of Time: Designs for the 20th-Century Future, 60 works of compelling beauty and often remarkable prescience explored the hypothetical future of American architecture, transportation, space exploration, and robotics. Dating from 1889 through 1961, these works foretold a future of underwater communities encased in glass domes; fantastic streamlined cities; dazzling bubble-top cars with cooking facilities in the back seat; inflatable orbiting space stations; and colonies on Mars. Many of the images were published in books and periodicals of the day, such as Amazing Stories, Life, Mechanix Illustrated, and Popular Science. However, few of these original watercolors, oil paintings, pen-and-ink drawings, and other renderings had ever been exhibited.

Art of the future appeared wherever the future was envisioned-in architectural drawings, industrial design renderings, advertising art, and illustrations for science fiction publications. Visionary artists such as Alexander Leydenfrost, industrial designer Richard Arbib, and Frank R. Paul, considered to be the greatest early science fiction artist, imagined the American future and prophesied elements of the real world to come. Out of Time: Designs for the 20th-Century Future focused on the exceptional artists largely responsible for the "invention" of the future from the late 19th through the mid-20th century and gauges the accuracy of their predictions. The exhibition is an impressive visual archaeology of the future's "Golden Age," when all things seemed possible and when technology appeared to be the launching pad to a greater tomorrow. A book published by Harry N. Abrams, Inc. accompanies the exhibition.

This Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service exhibition toured from 2000-2003.



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