Cooper Hewitt Design Museum reopens this weekend after 3-year renovation

Text & Photos:
Julie Schwietert Collazo
**

A few shots from my visit to the newly renovated Cooper Hewitt. (Photos: @collazoprojects)
A few shots from my visit to the newly renovated Cooper Hewitt. (Photos: @collazoprojects)

Let’s just cut right to the chase: I don’t adore the newly renovated Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, which seems like an absolutely terrible and unkind thing to say since the museum has been closed for three years, undergoing a meticulous $91 million once-over.

As I walked away from Tuesday morning’s media preview of the museum, which will reopen to the public this Friday, December 12, I searched for the right word to describe why such an ambitious project left me feeling so dissatisfied. The word is: incohesive. Among the 726 objects on display, there are some compelling ones, including Abraham Lincoln’s funeral pall and pocket watch, a pair of Toscanini’s pants, and–coming up to the present century–Damian Ortega’s most impressive installation of tools, “Controller of the Universe.” There’s also the Hansen Writing Ball and a Comstock Knitter, both of which are glorious representations of 19th-century industrial design.

But for every “Ooh” “Aah,” “Weren’t those the glory days of design?” object, there’s one that feels a little out of place, either “Too soon, too soon” (ie: the iPhone and MacBook Air) or boring because of its predictability and ubiquity in other museums (I’m looking at you, Zig-Zag and Vermelha chairs). Mostly, though, the collection as it is presented feels incredibly disjointed, the attempt to be representative yet selective not even cohering well within discrete exhibits, and far less across and among them.

That’s not to say I’m unswayed by the Cooper Hewitt’s new charms, however. I’m impressed by the effort and (most of) the execution of the museum’s new hands-on interactive elements, as well as the places in the museum where exhibits try to explain how design is relevant to daily life. The Cooper Hewitt has always excelled in this regard; its 2007 exhibit, “Design for the Other 90%,” was exceptional. When Cooper Hewitt’s good, it’s good. But that’s precisely what makes the “Meh” parts so disappointing.

Daily Outtake: Latin American Design Exhibit at MAD

Text & Photos:
Julie Schwietert Collazo
**
Last week, Francisco and I had the opportunity to visit the Museum of Arts and Design, where the exhibit “New Territories: Laboratories for Design, Craft, and Art in Latin America” had just opened.

Some of the works in the "New Territories" exhibit. (Photo: @collazoprojects)
Some of the works in the “New Territories” exhibit. (Photo: @collazoprojects)

Like the Guggenheim, the physical lay-out of MAD doesn’t always work; we’ve seen really excellent exhibits there and some that really suffered from poor use of space. Fortunately, “New Territories” avoids those problems, mainly because the work is so strong and varied that the visitor’s interest is held and there’s a thrill in going from one floor to the next (the exhibit is spread out over three floors) to see what else you’ll find.

There are some heavy hitter artists/designers in the show, including Vik Muniz and Pedro Reyes, as well as those who will likely be new to most viewers. Our visit was far too cursory, so we’ll be back for a more leisurely experience before the show closes on April 6, 2015.

Nicaragua Disena 2012: Video

Text & Video:
Julie Schwietert Collazo
**
Nicaragua Disena 2012 concluded tonight at the Crowne Plaza Convention Center in Managua, Nicaragua. The two-day event was full and intense, and in addition to feeling inspired by the work I saw presented on the runway and off, I especially enjoyed interviewing some of Nicaragua’s young, talented fashion designers and artists.

Here’s a quick summary, in video form, of the event. Though it was the first iteration of Nicaragua Disena 2012, I know it won’t be the last.

Diseña 2012 Opens, Inspires in Nicaragua

Text & Photos:
Julie Schwietert Collazo
**

Minister of Tourism, Mario Salinas, cuts the ribbon, signifying the opening of Diseña 2012.
Minister of Tourism, Mario Salinas, cuts the ribbon, signifying the opening of Diseña 2012.

Unlike most things in my life, I approached the opening of Nicaragua’s first design fair, Disena 2012, without expectations. I know a bit about Nicaragua’s culture and history, though not much, and I know even less (much less) about fashion, so for me, Diseña 2012 was the blank slate upon which any story could be written.

And what a story it’s been so far.

Massimo Argnani with one of his recycled lamps.
Massimo Argnani with one of his recycled lamps.
Speeches were offered and a ribbon was cut; then, attendees streamed in by the dozens. They circulated through a salon where designers of all types exhibited their work: lamps and furniture made of rescued trash and driftwood; handmade leather sandals with rope straps; spray paint art; and much more. The hum and buzz of the room was literal, the excitement completely palpable.

Then, those who came out to attend the free event, Nicaragua’s first international design fair, enjoyed a series of impressive runway shows, starting with student designers from the Universidad del Valle and concluding with the introduction of Shantall Lacayo’s newest line. Even without a strong grasp of fashion trends, I knew what we were seeing was good.

Really good.

Though all of the clothes and accessories (and the shoes… my God, the shoes! I have never seen so many high-high heels in one place in my life!) presented on the runway had qualities that impressed, the student designers were particularly impressive. I hope to track some of them down tomorrow for interviews.

In the meantime, enjoy these photos. And mark my words: Soon, Nicaragua will make itself known in global fashion circles.

Model practices on the catwalk while a future model observes carefully.
Model practices on the catwalk while a future model observes carefully.
Models on the runway during the first show.
Models on the runway during the first show.
The most impressive student designer's work on display on the runway.
The most impressive student designer’s work on display on the runway.
Models show off the work from Kuero, a collection of leather goods.
Models show off the work from Kuero, a collection of leather goods.
Pieces from Shantall Lacayo's new collection.
Pieces from Shantall Lacayo’s new collection.
Shantall Lacayo celebrates the showing of her newest collection.
Shantall Lacayo celebrates the showing of her newest collection.

Follow along on twitter, instagram (@collazoprojects), and Facebook. And for more photos, check out our gallery on Flickr.

Nicaragua Presents Inaugural Design Event: Disena 2012

Text: Julie Schwietert Collazo
Photo: Courtesy of Disena 2012
**

Fashion by Vicente Castellon, one of the exhibitors at Disena 2012.
Fashion by Vicente Castellon, one of the exhibitors at Disena 2012.

I’ve just landed in Nicaragua to cover “Disena 2012,” the country’s inaugural international design fair, which opens tomorrow in Managua, the country’s capital. “Disena 2012” is the first international fair dedicated to Nicaraguan design, and its goal is to show Nicaraguans and the world that “it is possible to learn about culture through design while having fun,” whether “design” refers to architecture, furniture, fashion, or digital products. The fair is being sponsored by Shantall Lacayo, a finalist in the 2010 Project Runway: Latin America, and the country’s tourism board, INTUR.

It’s my first time in Nicaragua, so I’m thrilled to be here, covering the fair for FOX News Latino and a few other outlets, including this blog. Once the fair concludes on Sunday, I’ll be heading out to explore the rest of the country. I hope you’ll follow along here and on twitter, instagram (@collazoprojects), and Facebook.