Review: Maira Kalman Selects

I’m not really into design, per se, but I went to the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum because this sounded look an interesting exhibit. In Maira Kalman‘s own words:

“What is this room about?
Very loosely, it is about life and death.
But isn’t everything?
It is about falling in love with a group of objects.”

For me, the stars of the show are the porcelain women. There’s three of them: Just inside the entrance is The Firebird from 1920 Russia. The Figure of a Dancer from 1900 France is frozen in the opposite corner, shielding her delicate features with her solid arm. Across the room from both of these is The Ballerina Galina Ulanova in the Role of Maria. That face. That foot.

Of course, there’s more to the exhibit than the porcelain ladies. There’s a watch that belonged to Abraham Lincoln as well as the pall that covered his casket. There are a pair of pants that belonged to Arturo Toscanini and a chair with a video screen imbedded in it.

The museum itself is contained in an incredible building that was once home to Andrew Carnegie and offers many sights worthy of a trip to the corner of 92nd & 5th. In 1897 Eleanor and Sarah Hewitt founded the museum at the Cooper Union with their own personal collection of art and artifacts that “could be touched, moved, sketched, photographed, and measured.” It’s a hands-on museum.

“Jerusalem from the Mount of Olive” by Frederick Church

For lovers of painting, the world’s largest collection of the works of American realist painter Winslow Homer and Hudson River School artist Frederick E. Church are also part of the Cooper-Hewitt collection.

Maira Kalman Selects is on view through June 14. The museum opens every morning at 10:00 and closes each evening at 6:00, except for Saturdays when it stays open until 9:00. Don’t be fooled by the Smithsonian name, though. Unlike the museums in DC, this one is not free. Admission is $18 (or $16 if you buy your tickets online).

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