FeaturesQuirky/offbeat, Off the beaten path
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.