For the museum-going public, much has changed since March 2020. Heeding local and state restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19, many of the most prominent institutions in the United States closed to visitors for much of the year. Some launched gingerly reopenings over the summer, but with virus cases once again surging across the nation, museums have shuttered once more. At institutions that remain open, guests can anticipate new requirements aimed at rendering the museum experience safer: timed tickets to reduce crowding, temperature checks upon arrival, social distancing guidelines, and mask mandates. Even under such conditions, curators of art and design have persevered in assembling exhibitions of remarkable quality and depth, both online and in physical space. Here are a few examples to explore in early 2021:
The Porch is the Tree is the Watering Hole
African American Research Library and Cultural Center
2650 Sistrunk Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
In the African American Research Library and Cultural Center, a branch of the Broward County library system, a group of eight visual artists, designers, and writers from across the United States explore the relationship between Black communities and their built environment. The multidisciplinary show centers on Sistrunk, a historically Black community in Fort Lauderdale originally settled by African American railroad workers at the turn of the 20th century.
The exhibition’s contributors (Germane Barnes, Marlene Brunot, Adrienne Chadwick, Darius V. Daughtry, George Gadson, Adler Guerrier, Olalekan Jeyifous, and David I. Muir) investigate Black gathering spaces through a variety of mediums, including photography, mixed-media art, poetry, and furniture design. The work is organized around spaces found in or around a single-family home, with particular attention paid to the front porch and back alley. In addition to celebrating the spaces that define the Black experience in Sistrunk, curator Dominique Denis aims to inform future public art installations in the neighborhood through the cultivation of a deeper understanding of its history and people.
Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd Street
Through August 15
In 2019, Paola Antonelli, senior curator of architecture and design at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, organized Broken Nature: Design Takes on Human Survival, the 12th edition of the Triennale Milano. Foregrounding the concept of restorative design, the exposition’s numerous international participants contributed projects interrogating how humans might repair their tenuous connections to the natural world. One of the curators’ central aims was to “move beyond pious deference and inconclusive anxiety” in favor of a more imaginative, design-driven approach to the environmental crisis.
Now parts of Antonelli’s main exhibition have come to New York City through a collaboration between the Triennale and the Museum of Modern Art. An abridged version is housed in MoMA’s new street-level galleries, where the museum does not require guests to pay admission. With floor-to-ceiling windows facing outward onto 53rd Street, the gallery now houses 45 works from the original exhibit in Milan, some of which the museum has recently accessioned into its collection. Viewers can take in everything from Aki Inomata’s 3D-printed ammonite shell to Mustafa Faruki’s Intake Facility for an Anonymous Client, which confronts a “future of undaunted, unstoppable migration” by imagining how humans might process migrants from heaven.
States of Becoming
4400 Forbes Avenue
Carnegie Museum of Art
Through March 28
Curators at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh have assembled a collection of work from the institution’s Heinz Architectural Center that explores ideas of iteration and evolution within the discipline. The exhibition, whose title is a quote from architect Thom Mayne, centers on work from close to two dozen prominent practitioners, including historical figures like Michael Graves as well as contemporary studios like Johnston Marklee and Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis.
Through a variety of mediums, curator of architecture Raymund Ryan intends to convey the dynamic experience of architectural production, revealing “some of the ways that architects investigate construction techniques, explore the possibilities offered by new technologies, and represent cities in new and provocative ways.” As designers and architecture students turn to virtual work environments, the exploration of new architectural techniques through physical models, such as Estudio Teddy Cruz + Fonna Forman’s Manufactured Sites, is especially resonant.
With museums across the country honing their digital collections and online exhibition design strategies, one institution in Los Angeles, the A+D Museum (pronounced “A Plus D”), has navigated the virtual sphere to great effect. With its new online-only exhibit Designing Worlds, the museum sheds light on the fantastical realm of video game design, capturing the spirit and energy of an industry that is considerably younger than most other design disciplines. As A+D points out, the subject matter is particularly well-suited to a digital format, as most video games today are not experienced in physical space.
Designing Worlds organizes 23 video games into 3 categories: Story and Narrative, for games that build on captivating storylines; Art and Design, for games that exhibit special attention to artistic direction; and Gameplay Mechanics, for games that foster unconventional user experiences. Striking images and captivating videos are accompanied by descriptive text, ensuring that Designing Worlds is as engaging and educational as any art experience one can have from home today.