Harry Bertoia Symposium

Sculpting Mid-Century Modern Life

January 29, 2022

An in-depth discussion of the work and impact of American artist Harry Bertoia (1915–1978), who was one of the most prolific, innovative artists of the postwar period. Bertoia’s legacy includes designs for one-of-a kind jewelry and iconic chairs, thousands of unique sculptures including large-scale commissions for significant buildings, and advancing the use of sound as sculptural material. Harry Bertoia: Sculpting Mid-Century Modern Life questions how and why we distinguish between a chair, a necklace, a screen, and a freestanding sculpture—and what Bertoia’s sculptural things, when seen together, say about the fluidity of visual language across culture, both at mid-century and now.  

Part I: Scholarly Presentations 

Jed Morse 
Introduction: Harry Bertoia: Sculpting Mid-Century Life 

Dr. Marin Sullivan 
“The Moment of Sharing”: Harry Bertoia’s Large-Scale Commissions  

Dr. Sydney Skelton Simon 
Between Medium and Technology: Bertoia’s Monotypes and the Synthesis of Art and Design  

Olivia Block 
The Speed of Sound in Infinite Copper: Responding to Bertoia’s Sound Sculptures 

Part II: Roundtable Discussion 

Moderated by Jed Morse, Chief Curator, Nasher Sculpture Center 
Celia Bertoia 
Olivia Block 
Dr. Sydney Skelton Simon 
Dr. Marin Sullivan 

Panelist Biographies 

Celia Bertoia is Director and Founder of the Harry Bertoia Foundation and the youngest daughter of Harry Bertoia. She has a background in real estate and fundraising, and created the foundation in 2013. Her biographical book, The Life and Work of Harry Bertoia, came out in 2015. She lectures internationally on her father, and interviews extensively. She is a fine arts appraiser through the American Society of Appraisers (ASA) who is qualified to issue certificates of authenticity, and to appraise Bertoias. 

Olivia Block has forged an influential career in experimental music and sound installation over the past thirty years. In addition to a discography of over twenty solo and collaborative recordings, Block has performed and exhibited around the world including installations and premieres in Europe, North America, and Asia at venues such as the Institute of Contemporary Art, London, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, and La Biennale di Venezia 52nd International Festival of Contemporary Music. She has worked directly with Bertoia’s sounding sculptures on two occasions, for the work Sonambient Pavilion, which was performed at Chicago’s Pritzker Pavilion in 2015, and for her Sightings installation at the Nasher, The Speed of Sound in Infinite Copper, which coincides with the Bertoia retrospective. 

Dr. Sydney Skelton Simon is an art historian and curator who specializes in post-World War II American art and design. She is currently the Bradley Assistant Curator of Academic Affairs at the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven.  Simon’s essay details Bertoia’s lifelong work in monotypes and their relation to his broader practice.  

Dr. Marin R. Sullivan is an independent curator and art historian based in Chicago. She is the Director of the Harry Bertoia Catalogue Raisonné.  She is co-curator of the exhibition and contributed an essay on Bertoia’s large-scale, corporate, and architectural commissions, as well as an appendix cataloguing all of these projects. 


Harry Bertoia: Sculpting Mid-Century Modern Life was made possible by leading support from the Texas Commission on the Arts and Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger. Generous support is provided in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and Dallas Tourism Public Improvement District (DTPID). Additional support is provided by Humanities Texas.

Watch: Jed Morse on "Harry Bertoia: Sculpting Mid-Century Modern Life"
Watch: Marin Sullivan on Bertoia's Large-Scale Commissions
Watch: Sydney Skelton-Simon on Bertoia's Monotypes
Watch: Olivia Block on Bertoia's Sounding Sculptures
Watch: Bertoia Symposium Panel Discussion
Nasher Sculpture Center
2001 Flora Street
Dallas, Texas 75201
Stay Connected