In 1940, The Museum of Modern Art staged a retrospective of the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, the great American architect, then in his 70s, who had experienced a professional rebirth over the previous decade after many years of relative invisibility. Wright was a full collaborator in the organization of the project, which he intended, he said, to be "the show to end all shows." To accompany the exhibition, the Museum planned a publication in the form of a Festschrift, commissioning essays from many of the best-known architecture figures of the day--Alvar Aalto, Henry-Russell Hitchcock, Richard Neutra, Mies van der Rohe, and others. Wright, however, took issue with certain parts of the book, complimentary though it was, and after an incendiary exchange of correspondence, including the architect's threat to cancel the entire exhibition, the show went forward but the book did not.
In the 60-odd years since, the essays that MoMA commissioned have remained in its files, most of them lost to public view. Now, for the first time in one volume, MoMA is publishing the entire surviving group, along with a full selection of the letters and telegrams between Wright, MoMA, and others detailing MoMA's and the architect's collaboration-cum-collision. Accompanying these period documents is an extensive essay by the noted Frank Lloyd Wright scholar Kathryn Smith, who provides a full account of the exhibition, both as it was and as it was intended to be--including, for example, an unrealized plan to erect one of Wright's Usonian Houses in the MoMA garden. Smith also explores Wright's relationship to his critics, the architectural profession, and the Museum in the years leading up to the exhibition.