Tragedy in Africa Condomise by Ardmore Ceramic Art,Collection of Barbara Karp Shuster. Photo: Ed Watkins

See artwork from 100 African artists at this New York exhibition.

November 11, 2010

What do Nigerian-British fashion designer Duro Olowu and New York–based contemporary painter Kehinde Wiley have in common? Their works, along with pieces by South African collective Ardmore Ceramic Art and more than 100 other African artists, make up the new “Global Africa Project” exhibition, on view at New York’s Museum of Arts & Design (MAD). “The show aims to present the fluidity of the continent’s art, and the global nature of being African in today’s world,” says cocurator Lowery Sims. In conjunction with the exhibition, Sims will accompany a group of up to 30 on a 10-day art tour of South Africa in February, including visits to the Design Indaba Expo, in Cape Town, and dinner with painter William Kentridge in Johannesburg—not to mention a stay at Cape Town’s newly refurbished Cape Grace. Exhibition through May 15; tour from $9,500 per MAD Curator’s Circle member (membership fee from $1,000).

Museum of Arts and Design

Occupying a trapezoidal island diagonally across from Central Park, the 12-story, white-marble building by Edward Durrell Stone stood for close to half a century at 2 Columbus Circle, near the geographic center of Manhattan. In a controversial redesign, Brad Cloepfil, founder of Allied Works Architecture, based in Portland, Oregon, has remade the building from top to bottom. He preserved its quirky, curving shape, restored its auditorium, and kept its signature ground-floor arcade of lollipop-shaped arches, enclosing them in glass. (They now offer street views into the lobby and the museum’s gift shop, which sells mostly one-of-a-kind, artisan-produced objects.) But he also removed 300 tons of concrete from the structure, sheathing its exterior in iridescent ceramic tile and perforating it with strategic cuts that flood the once-windowless galleries with natural light. Art, craft, and design also rub shoulders in the third-floor display dedicated to the permanent collection, which benefits from its own gallery for the first time in the museum’s history. Take just the ceramics, for example. The works on view range from a large blue-green bowl made in 1946 by Viennese exiles and West Coast husband-and-wife potters Gertrud and Otto Natzler, whose signature crater glaze gives it the appearance of some volcanic artifact; to contemporary avant-gardist Eva Hild’s undulating abstractions in stoneware. There are pieces by fine artists—dabblers in the medium such as Cindy Sherman, whose image, disguised as Madame de Pompadour, appears on a Nymphenburg porcelain soup tureen—and lifelong potters like Betty Woodman, whose classically puffy Pillow Pitcher seems endowed with a quirky, Etruscan grace. Just below, in the jewelry gallery (among the first of its kind in this country), the works of 1940’s Greenwich Village bohemians like Sam Kramer—a silver bird pendant, for example, set with a taxidermied eye and betraying the twin influences of biomorphism and surrealism—share space with a distinguished collection of ethnographic jewels and pieces by contemporary conceptualists such as Otto Künzli, whose ironic commentary on our fixation with precious metals takes the form of a gold bracelet entirely encased in black rubber.

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