by Vatsala SethiDec 26, 2022
Nestled in the bustling heart of New York City, the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) stands as a beacon of artistic exploration and discovery. For years, the institution has been dedicated to pushing the boundaries of what art and design can be, constantly delving into the intricate connections between visual and applied arts. Now, Museum of Arts and Design has revealed its permanent collection to the world, showcasing an awe-inspiring array of over three thousand pieces, each one a testament to the power and beauty of modern art.
This journey can be traced back to 1956, when Founder Aileen Osborne Webb brought her innovative ideas to New York City and opened the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD). Webb, a philanthropist and avid collector, recognised the significance of craft and the handmade in shaping art and contemporary design. As a result, she started putting together museum-quality collections of handcrafted masterpieces.Through the new exhibition, the museum hopes to draw attention to the value of handmade art and design.
Over the years, the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) has created several initiatives to foster respect for handmade goods and encourage the next generation of creatives to pursue their own handmade pursuits. "This is the first long-term exhibition of the permanent collection since MAD opened its doors, at our home in Columbus Circle in 2008," says Elissa Auther, MAD’s deputy director of curatorial affairs. "Inspired by the Museum’s radical, founding mission to champion craft as central to the advancement of art, the exhibition expands the story of craft conventionally told by scholars and museums and makes the case for the relevance of the handmade in culture and society today."
An introduction to seldom-seen textiles is presented, to kick off the show. It features three generations of pioneering quilt artists—the first is Ruth Clement Bond, whose designs for a series of Tennessee Valley Authority quilts celebrates African-American contributions to modern society. Followed by Faith Ringgold's fusion of painting, craft, and literary traditions for her story quilt Shades of Alice, and Bisa Butler's vibrant painterly portrait Lyric with a Lollipop (on loan to MAD), capturing a vivid slice of contemporary Black American life. Collectively, the quilts in this art exhibition challenge viewers to rethink traditional boundaries between fine art and decorative arts, while acknowledging the role that craft artists have played in galvanising the art world to expand its definition of fine art, to include a broader diversity of artists and materials.
Another exhibit on view is Chorus of One by artist Anna Mlasowsky, which is a culmination of two years of work with a glass-ceramic material, at the Corning Incorporated Research Laboratory. It is the perfect example of dedication to material innovation that is characteristic of the craft. Given its impact and shatter resistance, Mlasowsky fashioned the material into a coat of protective scales, like those of an armadillo. The sculpture is accompanied by a film, in which a dancer dons the cloak and performs a revealing routine, showcasing the material's visual and acoustic characteristics.
The abundance of wooden artworks in the collection served as an inspiration for this show, which examines the material from a green perspective. One of the selections is Eleanor Lakelin's Column Vessel I (from the Echoes of Amphora series), a composite of three hand-picked sections of timber from a newly felled chestnut tree in native England, one section is in an avenue of diseased trees that shaded Reading Goal, where Oscar Wilde was incarcerated in 1885 and also the name of the prison in his poem.
Participants can also experience a series of hands-on workshops in April and May, to learn about things like the history of Indigo and how to make your own indigo dye. They can also learn about the traditions and practices of Eastern Woodland-style beading and try some handcrafted sake. Also, starting in the spring, the Museum will host a series of seminars for adults who want to learn more about the history of craft and how it is used today. These seminars will include lectures, discussions, and trips to the studios of working artists.
The exhibition is not only a visual delight, but also a unique opportunity to learn about the innovative practices, materials, and processes that are shaping the future of art and design with hands-on workshops and interactive seminars. From thought-provoking sculptures to striking installations, this collection has something for everyone, showcasing the incredible diversity and creativity of contemporary art. With the unveiling of its permanent collection, the Museum of Arts and Design cements its place as a cultural icon in New York City.