A friend lives in this cool Brooklyn loft. She decorates in a wonderfully minimalist style and I bet she can’t pass Roche Bobois without salespeople waving hello. In contrast, I’m on a first-name basis at the Stickley store. I’m jealous of Ms. Minimalist’s space as it always has a restorative zen-like appeal to me. So when I can’t visit my friend and need to reset my senses from all the dark wood and overstuffed/overpropped places I hang in, I head to The Museum of Arts and Design at Columbus Circle. The clean lines of the building’s architecture, the open and quiet exhibit spaces, and beautifully curated and installed exhibits recharge me creatively and spiritually.
I was wowed by the design of the current exhibition, The Art of Scent 1889-2012. As shown in the photograph above, this open space is minimal, futuristic, even daunting when you first approach the exhibit. My initial reaction was that I didn’t know what to make of it until I followed others and placed my head into one of twelve carved wall spaces. Fragrance softly wafts up to your nose, and written descriptions of the scents light up next to the space. The museum states that it purposely created a space devoid of all visual indicators, such as logos and marketing materials, so that visitors would concentrate on smell only. That would explain the almost-totally white room one encounters.
Another nearby room (inset photograph) is lit by targeted lights that illuminate transparent tables and seating. It is described as an interactive salon that allows a viewer to explore the artistic process of creating perfume.
Exhibit or space? Frankly, the mix of scents gave me a headache. My olfactory sophistication is not highly developed and I wasn’t that engaged in the subject. But I was stunned by the beauty of the space and by the brilliance of the design of the exhibit. The transparent surfaces, lighting effects, and projected words that were employed as ways to educate and move visitors through the space were exciting to me as a designer. The minimalism and zen-quality of the exhibit stayed in my mind long after the aroma of Guerlain dissipated. The exhibit was designed and installed by the architectural firm Diller, Scofidio + Renfro, recently known for the redesign and renovation of Lincoln Center, along with the High Line.
There is never a lack of beautiful objects, mind-bending techniques, and interesting materials at MAD.
Pictured: Heart Axe (detail) 2011, Afruz Amighi. Woven Polyethylene and plexi glass. From Doris Duke’s Shangri La, on exhibit through February 17. (Photograph by Afruz Amighi.)
Bunny Bracelet, 1988-1992, Daniel Brush. Bakelite, pure gold, pink diamonds, rubies. From Daniel Brush: Blue Steel Gold Light, on exhibit through February 17. (Photograph by John Bigelow Taylor.)
Museum of Arts and Design
2 Columbus Circle at 58th Street and Broadway
Robert: Museum dining. Amazing views from top of building, great place for a drink.
The Store at MAD: a well-curated selection of craft, design objects, jewelry, accessories.