Pixar, Posters & More At Cooper Hewitt


The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum reopened last February after a six-year, top-to-bottom renovation and rethinking of the space inside the stately Andrew Carnegie mansion on Fifth Avenue, and the result of all of that work was an exciting, reinvigorated institution that had successfully made the leap into crowd-pleasing interactivity without getting too gimmicky, nor undermining the grandeur of the place. But you can only host a grand reopening once, and so, some eight months later, there are three new exhibitions in the Copper Hewitt's main galleries, one of which stars one of the most beloved brands on the planet, Pixar. Will the new shows lure in and satisfy the fall-/holiday-season crowds? I went last week for the first time since the reopening to find out.


Pixar's The Design of Story

On view October 8, 2015 through August 7, 2016

First, the Pixar exhibition, which is entitled The Design of Story is held in the new Process Lab on the Cooper Hewitt's first floor which, if you've been, you know is a small, small space. There are a bunch of sketches and rough-draft studies on display for about a half dozen familiar Pixar heroes, from Toy Story's Woody to Wall-E to the rat-chef Ratatouille, showing the evolution of these iconic characters (and their stories) and demonstrating a bit about the animation studio's design process. It's all kind of interesting and fun to look at, but there''s nothing terribly revelatory here. And the layout of everything doesn't really up the wow factor. It's one of the design exhibitions that would work just as well, and probably better, in a book, or online.  


How Posters Work

On view from May 8, 2015 to Jan. 24, 2016

More extensive and hanging throughout the first and second floors is the graphic design showcase, How Posters Work. Here the curators have taken posters by dozens of different designers, including legends such as Paula Scher, Paul Rand, Herbert Matter, and Ladislav Sutnar, and organized them all in such a way that explain exactly why they are visually effective. For example, one wall is dedicated to work that Focuses the Eye, and the next to posters that Overwhelm the Eye. Other strategies examined here include Simplify, Tell a Story, Manipulate Scale, and Double the Meaning. 


Provocations: The Architecture of Heatherwick Studio

On view June 24, 2015 through January 3, 2016

Finally, on the museum's third floor, there's a large, terrific survey of the often-fantastical (but equally-often actually constructed) designs by Thomas Heatherwick and his London-based studio. You might be familiar with some of this work–the many-tentacled Olympic Cauldron, used during the torch-lighting ceremony at the 2012 games in London; the Spun Chair, which you can sit on (and teeter around in circles) in the basement–but it's all really cool and creative. By the way, Heatherwick and crew are designing the "island park" at Pier 55 here in NYC, and a whole corner of the show is given over to the project, including large-scale renderings and architectural models. 


For More Information On the Cooper Hewitt Museum

The Cooper Hewitt is located at 2 East 91st Street on the corner of Fifth Avenue, and is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., except for Saturdays when it stays open until 9:00.

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