In the late 19th century, Vienna began to rival Paris as the cultural capital of the world. One of the most striking indications of this cultural phenomenon was the 1897 formation of the Vienna Secession by avant-garde artists who sought to create an Austrian form of Art Nouveau. In 1903, two leaders of the Secession's progressive wing diverged to found the Wiener Werkstatte, or Vienna Workshop, which introduced Modernism in the design and production of everyday objects.
Interiors designed by Josef Hoffmann and Koloman Moser ushered in an aesthetic that rejected the floral excesses of Art Nouveau. The new style was functional and devoid of ornament; architectural and geometric in inspiration; and still maintained a sense of elegance that inspired a modern aesthetic worldwide.
The Wiener Werkstatte opened several shops in major German cities as well as Zurich and finally New York in 1922, but its expansion was short-lived. The New York branch closed in 1924; the parent company ran into financial difficulties during Hitler's rise and was forced to close its doors in 1932. This striking enamel sign survives as a memento of a seminal chapter in modern design.