Incredible museum of design in New York!
Main and commonly known 5th Avenue in New York. It’s here that the most important museums are located, impossible to be missed while strolling. The back of The Metropolitan Museum of Art (known as MET) touches the green lungs of the city – Central Park. With its neoclassical façade and stairs on which the colourful international crowd mill about waiting for tickets, MET entices and invites the biggest number of visitors in the world. It evokes delight and jealousy with art collection of art – from ancient to modern times and temporary exhibitions prepared with momentum that’s envied by all other museums.
Just a small distance apart, Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture one cannot miss. Postcard icon. Rotunda. One of its kind in the entire world. Guggenheim Museum. Crowds waiting for tickets to see the enchanting permanent collection wait obediently in a long queue – smiling and content, people talk freely on various topics.
Not far from the 5th Avenue in the same neighbourhood is located the Museum of Modern Art. After redevelopment MoMA dazzles with its architecture, comfortable and tailor-made for the 21st century exhibition needs. With its sculpture garden and restaurant awarded with Michelin stars it has become a unique place on the map of New York City. Its collection of modern art and almost all temporary exhibitions go down in history – also thanks to released catalogues-albums that became a must-read for art enthusiasts. It’s here that waiting for the fast pass, even after buying the tickets on the Internet takes the longest.
On the same, snobbish street where Yoko Ono lives and Madonna could not get residents’ permission to buy an apartment (for bagatelle! $25 million) in one of the buildings, there is an inconspicuous, as for those architectural and recognised icons, object. It is landmarked and very interesting but not so much known as previously mentioned celebrities of the museum world. The little palace was built at the end of 19th century – at the time being an incredibly modern building – and years after was adapted to meet the requirements of the collection of decorative art donated by three Cooper sisters from a factory owning family. Thanks to their far-reaching plans Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum was created, in my opinion a must-see place for all design enthusiasts visiting this exceptional city. Even though for years it’s been a private institution with an amazing collection, the exhibition concept, experiences and feelings of its visitors were rather ambiguous. What else to say – it smelled like mice and naphthalene!
Finally, Bill Moggridge took over Cooper Hewitt. Dynamite, not human. A legend in the world of design. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him during a conference in San Francisco and his personality, hard work and vision will forever be my ideal from Sevres… This person has invented and designed the first PC in the 60ties, was one of Silicon Valley precursors of world-changing solutions! And when after 2000, eventually, the very phenomenon of design gained on popularity, he decided to get involved and devote his time to reactivate and revitalise the concept of the very museum! And let me tell you, he has exceeded all my expectations! The museum is multimedia and engaging. And presented exhibitions are interesting and impact all senses… WOW! The building surrounded by a beautiful garden is an oasis of silence and rest on the crowded and noisy 5th Avenue! A bookshop and best equipped design store in the world – real rarities! I’ve spent a fortune. On what? That’s coming in the next post.
Museum building itself is a combination of architecture from the end of 19th and the beginning of 20th century with wood panelling, staircases and ravishing carpentry. What’s more, nowadays it’s been replenished with high-tech solutions provided to us by the technology. Renovation and refurbishing costed $ 90 million… Upon arrival in front office reminding me of an interplanetary space ship’s cockpit a smiling hostess gives me… an electronic pen and ticket with my code to an app that I download on my computer just after getting back home. Thanks to the app all objects that I liked in the museum and marked with the pen, neatly organised, described and photographed are already gathered for me in one place! That what user-oriented design is.
In the exhibition halls you can hear music from the times of the exhibitions, that is 20ties America’s jazz. Objects are nicely shown but also mixed like Piet Mondrian’s painting together with Gerrit Rietveld’s chair tell the visitors that the division between fine and applied arts is a myth. We are living in one world and the cultural context influences us from everywhere. In the middle of the halls are multimedia tables on which I draw and design what and how I can with my electronic gadget and an app changes it into three-dimensional objects covering them with materials of my choosing: aluminium – there you go! In the next room a boy designs a wallpaper – it’s pattern delights me. He multiplies it and just after 15 seconds I can take a photo with it in the background as HIS design is now on all walls.I simply cannot tell you about all exhibitions and experiences of the day. Oh yes, we’ve spent in that small, inconspicuous museum 6! hours.
Bill Moggridge died in 2012. He’s managed to make up a new concept, action strategy and to acquire funding as well as to create Cooper Hewitt one of the most interesting design museum in the world.
This story shows how the strength of first founders, then builders of the collection and last of the modern visionary that understands the needs of contemporary and FUTURE viewers allows for a creating of an extraordinary and very valuable place. I felt there like a kid in a candy store – finally on my own place
To finish the day I ate lunch in the beautiful garden surrounding the museum, had some rest and tried to stop my racing thoughts and heart, that wants so much to see such use of our ingenious IT designers, rich collections and creativity of museum curators in Poland…