“If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspires your hope.” Andrew Carnegie
One of the temporary opening exhibits at the newly renovated Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum on New York City’s Fifth Avenue is Maira Kalman Selects, an assemblage of objects chosen by Ms. Kalman from the museum’s collection, a few items on loan from the National Museum of American History, as well as several of the artist’s own pieces. The exhibit is staged in the former music room of the Carnegie Mansion and is accompanied by a special composition by Nico Muhly. This was our first introduction to Mr. Muhly’s lyrical and haunting modern classical compositions and for this week’s Listen Up we are excited to share with you two of his works from movie soundtracks. First up is It’s Not Just About You from the movie The Reader, followed by Go Back to Your Friends from Luca Guadagnino’s I Am Love.
Not Just About You is set to begin automatically, a feature that is incompatible with some handheld devices. In that instance, give a tap to the arrow. All readers will need to tap the arrow to begin Go Back to Your Friends which is found below this week’s Editourial.
New York’s Cooper-Hewitt Museum reopened on Dec 12, 2014 after a $91 million capital campaign to restore and renovate the 1902 Andrew Carnegie Mansion into the Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum celebrating the past, present and future of all aspects of design. I was so happy to visit this old friend again last week – solid, trusty, deep and rich – the mansion welcomed and proudly demanded a look beyond the exhibitions to the shine of fresh gold leaf, familiar sunlit stained glass, verdigris copper supports, darkly polished wooden panels. Reaching for the thick curvaceous banister, step by step I ascended to the second story. On a previous visit each step had been accompanied by a musical note; this time I think I only imagined the wood creaking because I wanted the stairs to talk to me, walk with me. I longed to reach down to gather the hem of a brocaded taffeta gown, careful not to trip as I slowly climbed toward the bedroom chambers after the last guests departed. The mansion’s beauty and history still remain that tangible, that accessible, without a note of dissonance despite the range of design it houses.
If the architecture and finishes of the mansion evoke an inner grand dame, the interactive displays coax out that shy inner creative child hiding deep inside. Not that designing wallpaper in the Immersion Room or digitally creating a new chair lack the opportunity for serious contemplation and problem solving. It’s just that it is impossible to move from room to room, engaging in the various high and low tech design stations, without getting a charge out of the freedom of playing. This big beautiful old house is full of such wonderful new toys! I spent three hours in the museum (which if my schedule had permitted could have easily been extended to six) and those three hours put a smile on my face and challenged me to think about what the world really needs.
The Cooper-Hewitt experience of creative play in an historic setting is solidified by the context provided by their excellent exhibitions. Imagine opening “The World’s Greatest Design Book” and stepping inside. Explore the world of tools from primitive man to today, examine 15 patents for the lowly clothespin, sit in a leveraged wheel chair, feel the emotional pull of Maira Kalman’s personal selections, admire the beauty of a Marcel Breuer wooden long chair, or consider the different 21st century necessities for prosthetic limbs made of robotic elements, 3D plastics, or bamboo. As you try your hand at design, the resources to answer your questions, spur you on, and encourage you to wonder “what if” are all around you. Being in this expansive atmosphere, witnessing how throughout time humankind’s needs – big and small – have been profoundly met with sometimes crude, sometimes elegant design solutions will fill you with hope. And that’s a wonderful way to begin a new year.
Something more to look forward to: The Cooper-Hewitt Pen which will allow visitors to capture and download their designs wasn’t available during our tour, but it is slated for an early 2015 release.
Heather Ewing’s Life of a Mansion recounts the 110-year history of the Andrew Carnegie mansion from its inception as a grand family home (1902 through the mid-20th century), its transformation into the Cooper-Hewitt Museum with a renovation by architects Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer in 1976, and concludes with the most recent massive three-year renovation and restoration accomplished under the leadership of Gluckman Mayner Architects, executive architect Beyer Blinder Belle, and the renowned Diller Scofidio and Renfro. The engaging narrative is illustrated by 200 images including floor plans, letters, and photographs. Life of a Mansion is available in the museum’s gift shop as well as through the Cooper-Hewitt’s online store.
Artist and writer Maira Kalman explored democracy, historical figures and happiness throughout 2009 in her blog And the Pursuit of Happiness on the New York Times website. In 2010 the blogs were compiled into a wonderful hardback book under the same title, published by Penguin Press. Kalman’s loopy spirited script and colorful witty illustrations appear to ramble but hit their mark repeatedly as she moves from the inauguration of Barack Obama to George Washington’s teeth with detours into musings about food, art, music, and napkin folding among many, many, many other topics along the way. Touching, whimsical, and thoughtful throughout, And the Pursuit of Happiness refuses to be pigeon holed and takes flight with the turn of every page, just like the illusive bluebird…
Visit the Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum for more more information about the museum and current exhibits. We’re happy to announce that the Cooper-Hewitt’s gift shop — in our opinion the best museum store we have ever visited (and that includes you MOMA) — has been added to Zippertravel’s Shopping Hall of Fame.
And we can’t report on happenings in New York City without a big thank you to our friends Julia and Tim, who provide us with a warm and happy home away from home during our stay in Gotham.
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Captions as needed top to bottom: Header: Silhouette of Steven designing his “William Morris Fantasy” wallpaper in the Cooper-Hewitt Immersion Room; Listen Up: Treated photo of plaster details in the former music room of the mansion; No Regrets Tour: Exterior banner on the fence of the Cooper-Hewitt; Editourial: Interactive video graphic entitled “How Do You Inspire Design”; Essay: Vintage wallpaper from the Hewitt Sisters Collection; bedframe and chair in the Teak Room; illustration for the flexible straw patent application filed in 1936; Book It Now: Gift shop offerings at the Cooper-Hewitt; book jackets for “The Life of a Mansion” and “And the Pursuit of Happiness” found on Google images; photos of Heather Ewing and Maira Kalman taken from Google images; Goodness Gracious: patent tags for 19th century clothespins; Pinterest: photos of the origami pleat and spiral staircase are shared from Pinterest. Unless otherwise indicated, all photos were taken by Elizabeth Cashour and Steven Saden and are the property of and copyrighted by Zippertravel.com.