Nancy and Edwin Marks Collection Gallery: Treasures from the Collection

Release Date: 
Monday, June 30, 2003

The Nancy and Edwin Marks Collection Gallery to be Unveiled At Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum

The Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum is the pre-eminent museum in the United States devoted to both historic and contemporary design. For the first time since becoming a part of the Smithsonian Institution in 1976, the museum will create a gallery specifically dedicated to its remarkable collections with an interpretive approach that will bring fresh perspectives to its holdings. The Nancy and Edwin Marks Collection Gallery, scheduled to open October 16, 2003, will showcase these treasures, many of which have never been on view to the public. International in scope and possessing one of the most diverse and comprehensive collections of design works in existence, the museum’s rich holdings range from the Han Dynasty (200 B.C.) to the present day and total more than 250,000 objects.

The museum is actively committed to increasing the accessibility of its collections and to building bridges between historic and contemporary design. The Nancy and Edwin Marks Collection Gallery will provide direct access to the objects that many national and international visitors come specifically to see. Through wider exposure of its collections to the public, creative interpretive approaches and the cumulative nature of the installations, the museum hopes to attract new audiences.

The Nancy and Edwin Marks Collection Gallery will be located in what was once the music room in the historic Andrew Carnegie Mansion - present day home to Cooper-Hewitt. Through generous funding from Nancy Marks and her late husband, Edwin Marks, the room is being restored, a new lighting system installed by George Sexton Associates and high-quality exhibition casework designed for the gallery. While respecting the original architectural integrity of the room and its domestic ambience, the design for the Nancy and Edwin Marks Collection Gallery by the New York architectural firm Architecture Research Office will provide an elegant, contemporary and flexible exhibition system that meets conservation criteria.

“For decades, most of Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum’s great treasures have been in storage because of the lack of the proper place to display them. We are delighted to now be part of the creation of a beautiful, new permanent gallery so that these extraordinary objects can at last be on view,” said Nancy Marks.

The Nancy and Edwin Marks Collection Gallery will introduce up to two installations each year featuring a wide range of objects from all historical periods and creating a visual encyclopedia of the collections. Curators selected for the installations will alternate between members of the museum’s curatorial staff and guest “interpreters” representing a variety of disciplines. Guest curators will include Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare, best-selling novelist and journalist Kurt Andersen and Dutch designer Hella Jongerius.

Cooper-Hewitt Director Paul Warwick Thompson will curate the debut exhibition, “Treasures from the Collection.” His seventy selections encompass diverse styles in a stimulating juxtaposition of objects across the five principal collecting departments of the Museum: Prints, Drawings and Graphic Design; Product Design and Decorative Arts; Wallcoverings; Textiles and the Cooper-Hewitt Library. Among his choices are a 1st-century A.D. Roman glass bowl, a large silk velvet panel from 17th-century Persia, panels of a hand-printed arabesque wallpaper from 1770 and a contemporary necklace by Gijs Bakker constructed of a spiral of dahlia petals embedded in plastic.

Commenting on the silk velvet panel, Thompson said, “I want to present the public with one superlative example of rarity in craftsmanship, a design of extraordinary quality and execution, born of privilege and rank: the silk velvet panel from Persia, dating from about 1610, is one of the few known pieces of this size, and in such excellent condition, in any museum in the world. Woven for a wealthy client, possibly for use at the base of a platform in a pleasure garden, the velvet was created through a complex and time-consuming technique that made possible the introduction of an unlimited number of colors.”
Through Thompson’s personal perspective, the installation will examine the range of the collection, which spans twenty-three centuries and five continents, creating conversations between both clearly related and dissimilar sets of objects.

The goal of establishing a counterpoint between in-house curatorial installations and those selected by guest interpreters is to elicit the many ideas and influences that transcend history and cultures. Through scholarly and interdisciplinary perspectives, the objects in the museum’s collections will be explored in both their particular characteristics and in the broader context of ideas in design and the arts.

Restoration Team:
Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects, Architect of Record
Architecture Research Office, Consultant
George Sexton Associates, Consultant
Gilsanz Murray Steffick, Structural Engineering, Consultant
Goldman Copeland Associates, Electrical Engineering, Consultant
Jablonski Berkowitz, Historic Finishes and Materials Testing Consultants, Consultant
General Information: Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution is the only museum in the nation devoted exclusively to historic and contemporary design. The museum presents compelling perspectives on the impact of design on daily life through active educational programs, exhibitions, and publications.
Location: The Museum is located at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 91st Street in New York City. Public transit routes include the Lexington Avenue 4, 5, and 6 subways (86th or 96th Street Stations) and Fifth and Madison Avenue buses.
Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. The museum is closed on Mondays, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.
Admission: General admission, $10; senior citizens and students over age 12, $7. Cooper-Hewitt members and children under age 12 are admitted free. For further information, please call (212) 849-8400 or visit The Museum is fully accessible.