On days like today, when misty rain alternates with brief periods of sunlight, I sometimes think about this cleverly designed “Sky” umbrella. It was created in 1992, by graphic designers Tibor Kalman and Emmanuela Frattini Magnusson, and I’ve probably been admiring it almost as long as it’s been sold at the Museum of Modern Art’s gift shop.
The umbrella appears completely conventional from a distance: black exterior, curved wood handle. If you’re actually standing under it, however, or if you pass close by someone carrying it on the sidewalk, you can see that the underside or interior is patterned to look like a clear blue sky with fluffy clouds.
And, although Kalman and Frattini Magnusson aren’t making any direct references to other artists, I can’t help thinking of René Magritte, who often juxtaposed a soberly dressed businessman with dreamlike, blue-sky backgrounds.
I don’t really need a $48 umbrella, or any umbrella at all—I’m getting plenty of use out of the standard-issue, collapible black model that I purcased at a shoeshine stand—but I do think the Sky umbrella would be a cheery piece of fantasy to carry on a bleak and windy day.
Images: Sky Umbrella, via MoMA online store; René Magritte, Delcalcomania (1966), via Wikipaintings.