By Meredith Deliso
The Brooklyn Museum is a fan of the decorative arts — make that a big fan.
Since acquiring a pair of 18th-century silver spoons in 1902, the institution has amassed more than 25,000 design pieces of all genres and time periods.
“The Brooklyn Museum is very inquisitive when it comes to decorative arts,” said Barry Harwood, the curator of the decorative arts department. “We’ve been at it for a long time.”
When the museum decided to show off its collection, it had to narrow it down a bit. Thus, in “Thinking Big: Recent Design Acquisitions,” a current exhibition running on the newly renovated ground floor, the 45 pieces represent items collected in the past decade that are modern and innovative in terms of materials used or how they were made.
Some pieces have been incorporated into exhibitions over the past few years, though many, due to their size, have never been on view before. Making its Brooklyn Museum debut, for instance, is the “Cinderella” table (2005) by Dutch designer Jeroen Verhoeven, one of only 20 tables that was intricately carved out using lasers to achieve its stunning silhouette.
Harwood saw one at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and just had to get it.
“I was bowled over,” said Harwood. “While we’re not a technology museum, its means of production was certainly part of the fascination. The combination of design and new technology has really pushed the design field forward.”
Another standout is the Spacelander Bicycle (pictured), a red (though now more bubblegum pink) futuristic machine made by Grand Haven in 1960.
“It’s a very well-known design object, an upscale collectable,” said Harwood. “It is really one of these American design icons.”
Other highlights of the exhibition that further show off the museum’s massive decorative arts collection include a colorful, mobile ceiling light by Victor Gruen, a playful side chair by the Red Hook-based Uhuru Design, a purple bulbous “Nirvana” armchair by Wendell Castle, and, on a smaller scale, a blue porcelain tureen by Cindy Sherman.
“At any one time, only about 15 percent are on view, so having this opportunity is very special and rather unique to get out so many recent acquisitions,” said Harwood. “I think that it’s exciting for people to see that museums are filled not just with old chairs and old silver, but with very current designs.”
“Thinking Big: Recent Design Acquisitions” at the Brooklyn Museum [200 Eastern Pkwy. at Washington Avenue in Prospect Heights, (718) 638-5000], now through May 29. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.