Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Better Than Expected: The Museum of Arts and Design

Taking pictures was strictly prohibited anywhere in the museum, so we were reduced to photographing outside and in the restaurant

The Museum of Arts and Design (aka MAD) is actually, happily, one of those places that shows better in person than on its website. Located on Columbus Circle in a space originally commissioned in the 1960s by Huntington Hartford (an A&P heir and a sort of anti-Midas who managed to lose most of his family’s immense fortune before his death in 2008. But that’s a whole other blog post.) and completely refurbished two years ago, MAD’s mission is to explore how art and design, through a variety of media, focus on contemporary craft.

There are lots of cool exhibits to pique a child’s interest and curiosity here. In “Dead or Alive: Nature Becomes Art” (through October 24, 2010), artists from around the world used organic materials to create art. In “Mad Cow Motorcycle,” sculptor Billie Grace Lynn attached a cow skeleton to a motorbike (apparently, when her wheels are not being showcased at MAD, she pedals around Miami encouraging discourse about meat consumption). In this same exhibition, English artist Damien Hirst created “Prophecy” from jewel-toned, iridescent butterfly wings arranged radially and bilaterally.

About to close on August 15, 2010 was “Bespoke: The Handbuilt Bicycle” which highlighted the work of six renowned bicycle craftsmen. Vivi, my little bling-meister, was especially dazzled by the museum’s permanent collection of modern and contemporary jewelry, most of which was housed in easy-to-access drawers that she could pull out and ogle to her heart’s content.

Something that I think bears noting about the museum—perhaps because it is only a couple of years new and is still working out the kinks—is some confusion and inconsistencies in its policies. We had timed our trip to the museum to arrive shortly after it opened at 11:00 AM on Sunday (per the hours noted on its website). Stenciled on the glass doors in the lobby, however, the opening time is shown as 10:00 AM. I’m still not sure which time is the correct one.

Secondly, as I am all too aware that some museums are less child-friendly than others (the Frick, for example, does not allow children under 10), I always double-check to make sure that my little people and I are not going to be denied entrance (so incredibly FUN when that happens). The MAD gave umbrella strollers the green light, so I had Vivi in our trusty-dusty Maclaren Volo when a guard approached to tell me that strollers were, in fact, not allowed. I smiled brightly, said “Yes, they are!”, and continued on my merry way (I love being right). Fortunately, the guard didn’t challenge us or throw us out on our keisters or anything. But still. It would be less annoying if the museum could get its website and security guards in sync.

We ended our visit with lunch on the 9th floor at Robert, all groovy black and champagne banquettes and circular glass tables. They offered respectable and reasonably priced salads, pastas, sandwiches, and contemporary American entrees for lunch, but the real reason to go is for the spectacular views of Central Park.

No paparazzi, please

Okay, so I couldn't take a picture of "Mad Cow Motorcycle" or the sparkly jewelry collection, but no one stopped me from snapping away in the bathroom of Robert. Aren't those beaded window shades a work of art?

Museum of Arts and Design, 2 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019, (212) 299-7777, www.madmuseum.org; Hours (per their website, anyway): Closed on Mondays; Tuesday to Sunday: 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM; Thursdays: 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM; Admission: Adults: $15; Children 12 and under: free; Thursdays from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM is pay-what-you-wish.

Robert, Museum of Arts and Design, 9th Floor, 2 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019, (212) 299-7730; www.robertnyc.com.


  1. Happy to see GB got into a few of the blogs :o)

  2. Great post. I'm having a hard time picturing a cow skeleton on a bicycle. Too bad for no pictures...