Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum Celebrates Opening of New Gallery Space with “Excavating Design” Exhibition
“Excavating Design: Eighteenth-century Drawings and Prints from the Permanent Collection,” the inaugural exhibition in Cooper-Hewitt’s new 700-square-foot ground floor gallery, will be on view from Nov. 4 to Jan. 8, 2006. The exhibition will showcase a selection of works from the Museum’s extensive collection of 18th-century European drawings and prints, featuring fantastical, unrealized architectural designs inspired by the artifacts of ancient Rome. Visitors will have the opportunity to view a select group of the Museum’s holdings of works by Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778) and the French Academy artists who were influenced by his work, including Louis-Joseph Le Lorrain (1715-1759) and Charles Michel-Ange Challe (1718-1778).
Prompted by reports of archaeological findings, 18th-century artists and writers traveled to Rome to see the excavated monuments, sculptures and relics of the past and capture their majesty on paper. In Cooper-Hewitt’s newly “excavated” space, drawings of the Roman monuments and ancient ruins by Giovanni Panini (1691-1764), Challe and Le Lorrain will be presented alongside Piranesi’s extraordinary prints, featuring significant motifs used by artists and designers in all media, including architecture and the decorative arts. These prints and Giovanni Ottaviani’s (1735-1808) brightly colored etchings of the famous Loggia at the Vatican were purchased by tourists and inspired artists from all over Europe, cultivating a new fascination with images of antiquity. A selection of objects from the Museum’s product design and decorative arts department, such as a micro-mosaic suite of jewelry and commemorative tableware decorated with scenes of antique ruins, also will be included in the exhibition, offering a commercial perspective on the effects of tourism on design.
“‘Excavating Design’ will provide visitors with the fundamentals of the Western design vocabulary to keep in mind as they tour the upper-level galleries of the Museum,” said Floramae McCarron-Cates, who co-curated the exhibition with Jordan Kim. “The works on display will evoke 18th-century Europe’s obsession with the grandeur of Rome and create a visual resource that can be appreciated both for its beauty and its relevance for scholars and designers today.”
About Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution
Cooper-Hewitt 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. Founded in 1897 by Amy, Eleanor and Sarah Hewitt—granddaughters of industrialist Peter Cooper—as part of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, the Museum has been a branch of the Smithsonian since 1967.
As the design authority of the United States, Cooper-Hewitt programs and exhibitions demonstrate how design shapes culture and history—past, present and future. The Museum presents design along a historic continuum, balancing contemporary and historic concerns and using 21st-century perspectives to pinpoint themes of enduring interest to design across all centuries. Holdings encompass one of the most diverse and comprehensive collections of design works in existence, tracing the history of design through more than 250,000 objects spanning 24 centuries, from the Han Dynasty (200 B.C.) to the present. The Museum’s collections are organized by four curatorial departments: product design and decorative arts; drawings, prints and graphic design; textiles; and wallcoverings.
Cooper-Hewitt is located at 2 East 91st Street at Fifth Avenue in New York City. Hours are Tuesdays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Fridays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sundays, noon to 6 p.m. The Museum is closed on Mondays, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Public transit routes include the Lexington Avenue 4, 5 and 6 subways (86th or 96th Street stations) and the Fifth and Madison Avenue buses. General admission, $10; senior citizens and students ages 12 and older, $7. Cooper-Hewitt members and children younger than 12 are admitted free. The Museum is fully accessible.
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