Museums That Aren’t the Met: #3 Museum of Arts and Design

29 Mar

Glasstress New York: In the foreground, “Carrona” by Javier Perez; in the background, “Hourglass” by Vik Muniz; and suspended from the ceiling,”The Seed of Narcissus” by Tomas Libertiny.

If ever there was a treasure hidden in plain sight, it is the Museum of Arts and Design. It took me far too long to find this fantastic museum–and I have no credible excuse for the oversight. Situated in Columbus Circle at the edge of Central Park,  the Museum of Arts and Design–or MAD as it is often called–escaped my attention as I walked past it at least once a week for four solid years. Even in subsequent years, visiting friends would often ask me, “What is in that building?” and I’m embarrassed to say that I usually responded, “Oh, it’s probably just office space.” It wasn’t until a work-related project brought me to its doors that I discovered I had been missing out on one of the most interesting museums for contemporary art and design in the city.

The exterior of the Museum of Arts and Design in Columbus Circle.

Recently, I introduced my husband to the museum. With only five levels of exhibition space, we were able to view everything we wanted to see and to spend several minutes contemplating each piece of art, without feeling any pressure to move on to the next piece in the interest of time.

The Swept Away exhibition, which occupies two floors and is on display until August 12, was particularly captivating–and you’d be best served by reading the artists’ statements that accompany each piece. The unifying theme of this exhibition is work made from unusual materials that people often attempt to wipe away from their daily lives–such as dust, smog, ashes, dirt, candle smoke, lint, and sand. Among other things, you’ll find a skull crafted from household dust, a quilt created from lint, crows made from charred wood, bottles with elaborate scenes drawn inside them in candle smoke, and a floor mural made from sands collected from important sites around the world. These artists have masterfully worked with what many would consider impossible mediums–bringing the residue of everyday decay to life in new forms that tell compelling stories.

“Ash Army No. 1″ by Zhang Huan in the foreground; “Unfurling Splendor” by Catherine Bertola on the walls in the background.

Two other worthwhile exhibitions to check out at MAD are Glasstress New York, which is on display until June 10, and Hanging Around, which is on display until May 20. The former exhibition contains wildly adventurous glasswork by international artisans gathered together by Adriano Berengo, founder of Venice Projects.  The latter features unconventional necklaces from the museum’s own jewelry collection, dating from the 1960s to today.

Also worth noting are the museum’s interesting views of Columbus Circle and Central Park. These slivers of vista and natural light often add nuance to or even directly interact with the art. (You’ll have to see the charred crows in “Murder” by Maskull Lasserre to understand what I mean.)

“A day of a train” by Asagi Maeda: Links in a necklace made to look like transparent subway train cars.

If you’re a fan of contemporary art and design, well-executed conceptual art, or innovative work in general, this museum is for you.  I encourage you to make your way to these exhibitions while they’re still available for viewing. But, truth be told, even if you miss out on all three, I’m fairly certain that MAD will have something else fascinating and exciting to show you whenever you do get there.

General: $15
Students/Seniors: $12
High-school students with ID: free
Kids: free
Thursdays from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.: “pay what you wish”

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday: 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Thursday and Friday: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Monday: closed

2 Columbus Circle, New York, NY (at the southwest corner of Central Park)

*For anyone who will be in Beirut in the fall and is interested in the Glasstress exhibition, it will also be appearing at the Beirut Exhibition Centre (BEC) a couple months after departing MAD.

*** “Museums That Aren’t the Met” is a series that chronicles museums in New York City which are cheaper, less mobbed, less overwhelming, and more easily digested in one visit than the mammoth institutions that everyone likely already knows–the Metropolitan Museum, the MOMA, and the Museum of Natural History. To browse other museums in this series, click here.

4 Responses to “Museums That Aren’t the Met: #3 Museum of Arts and Design”

  1. El Guapo March 29, 2012 at 10:34 am #

    Very cool. Never heard of this place, but I’m hoping to get to check it out now.

    • girlnextfloor March 29, 2012 at 2:06 pm #

      Awesome! And yeah — after I was introduced to it, I couldn’t believe that I’d never heard of it before. The exhibitions are reliably interesting, so I definitely encourage you to check it out.

  2. Sara April 2, 2012 at 11:52 pm #

    MAD is one of my favorite museums!

    • girlnextfloor April 3, 2012 at 9:26 am #

      The museum’s curatorial staff has a very good eye. They never seem to confuse artists who are simply “getting weird” with artists who are making meaningful contemporary art. The work usually reflects some artistic maturity, a significant level of skill or craftmanship, and a thoughtful approach to what they want to communicate through the works. I enjoy the museum because the work always surprises me, without confounding me.

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