By Simona Fine
Looking for somewhere in between an Instagrammable pop up shop and a substantive art museum? Then the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City is exactly the place for you. Over winter break, I visited the museum for a second time with a group of friends and it did not disappoint.
After entering the museum and collecting an interactive pen that allows visitors to save artworks electronically and engage with them again after departing, we entered a small exhibition of three rooms with different table settings. The first housed an ultra modern and utilitarian seating area that reminded me of seating in a school cafeteria, but this time, the furniture was upgraded for a more sustainable and streamlined future. Past this futuristic installation was a gilded surtout de table originally belonging to the stepson of Napoleon Bonaparte. Surrounding the magnificent centerpiece were sketches for designs of equally elaborate table settings of the era. By hanging these intermediate representations alongside this gleaming and resplendent sculptural element, the curators emphasized the beauty of the design process and the work that goes into creating art. In an effort to show a transition between these two extremes, the final room of the exhibit contained various tablecloths and linens of the Great Depression that blended imagery and text to represent different aspects of American history and culture.
Once upstairs, we walked through another exhibition room before stumbling upon the Immersion Room. In this chamber, visitors can project a variety of designs onto the walls, ranging from wall hangings owned by the museum to original drawings done on the spot.
While it can be interesting to look through the preprogrammed patterns and watch those wallpapers come to life, most people choose to doodle their own creations. During this trip to the museum, my friend drew the Surprise Pikachu face and we posed in front of the walls to take photos as other patrons laughed and admired her comical sketch. Although we were only in the Immersion Room for a few minutes, it allowed us to engage with our art and the work of lapsed artists in a unique setting.
My experience at the Cooper Hewitt was immersive, thought provoking, and overall enjoyable. I witnessed feats of design in an interactive and well-presented manner that connected works of the past to those that may revolutionize our future. As an added bonus, I left the museum with some excellent photos!