Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. (b. 1939), the founder of The Wolfsonian, believes that “objects made by men and women tell us things about human behavior better than any other form of human expression.” Wolfson’s objective in establishing The Wolfsonian was to create an institution that explores the active role design plays in shaping human experiences, perceptions, and attitudes.
Wolfson was born in Miami Beach and raised there and in Asheville, North Carolina. Extensive travel and work overseas provided him with the opportunities to amass an unparalleled collection of British, Dutch, German, Japanese, Italian, Celtic, and American design consisting of decorative, graphic, and fine arts; ephemera; and rare books. His collecting stems from a desire “to fathom human behavior and the motivation behind it in each object,” he explains. After decades of collecting, in 1986 Wolfson founded The Wolfson Foundation of Decorative and Propaganda Arts to foster scholarship through The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts and The Wolfsonian museum and research center. The Wolfsonian opened its doors to the public in 1995, and in 1997 Wolfson gifted his collection and its state-of-the-art headquarters to Florida International University.
In 2005 The Wolfsoniana which displays Wolfson’s collection of Italian decorative and propaganda arts, opened in Genoa, Italy, where Wolfson has maintained a residence since the 1960s. In 2007 he gifted his Italian collection to the Fondazione regionale per la Cultura e lo Spettacolo.
Wolfson is the co-author, with artist Michele Oka Doner, of the well-received Miami Beach: Blueprint of an Eden (2005). He was named Travel + Leisure Design Awards 2011 Design Champion and in 2007 was awarded both the Rotondi Prize to Art Rescuers (for his lifelong commitment to the preservation of art and architecture) and the Stewardship of Modernism Award by the Russell Wright Design Center in New York.
He is a member of many educational, civic, and cultural boards. He is a trustee for the Mitchell Wolfson Senior Foundation and the Mitchell Wolfson Family Foundation and a member of the International Council of the Museum of Modern Art and the International Council of Les Arts Decoratifs. He is a graduate of Princeton University and received a master’s degree in international relations from the Paul N. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, Bologna.