Ten must-sees at the Museum of Arts & Design

Good for: Design-porn aficionados

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  • Photograph: courtesy of Museum of Arts and Design

    Steffan Dam, Marine Group

  • Photograph: courtesy of Museum of Arts and Design

    Arthur Smith, Neckpiece, 1948

  • Photograph: courtesy of Museum of Arts and Design

    Jennifer Trask, Intrinsecus

  • Photograph: courtesy of Museum of Arts and Design

    Mat Collishaw, Garden of Unearthly Delights

Photograph: courtesy of Museum of Arts and Design

Steffan Dam, Marine Group

Steffan Dam, Marine Group
Danish artist Dam harnesses the faults in the glassmaking process—cracks, imperfections and air bubbles. In this piece (pictured above), he has crafted sea creatures out of the translucent materials and suspended them in glass, giving it the feel of a miniature aquarium (an association even in the title of the work). If you're curious about how Dam turns his "mistakes" into art, he explains his process and techniques in MAD's extensive online gallery.
Where to find it:
Third-floor gallery, "Flora and Fauna, MAD About Nature," through Nov 6

Art Smith, Neckpiece
A focus at MAD is its jewelry collection, and Smith's forged-brass necklace, shaped to look like a leather cord and pendant, is one of its founding pieces. The influential artist worked in Greenwich Village from the late '40s to the '70s, and took inspiration from modern art and dance.
Where to find it:
Second-floor jewelry gallery

Jennifer Trask, Intrinsecus
Trask's gold frame, adorned with bone flowers and antlers, was originally part of the 2010 exhibit "Dead or Alive: Nature Becomes Art," which featured objects that utilized parts or by-products of living organisms. "It's very three-dimensional, and extraordinarily creepy and beautiful," says museum director Holly Hotchner. "When you get up close, you realize [it includes] porcupine penis bone and all these strange things."
Where to find it:
Third-floor gallery, "Flora and Fauna, MAD About Nature," through Nov 6

Mat Collishaw, Garden of Unearthly Delights
Collishaw is known for macabre photos, and this zoetrope (a rotating diorama that creates the illusion of motion with a strobe light) lives up to his rep. In the foreground, nude babies appear to club a leaping salmon, while butterflies and birds flap their wings to create a sense of chaos. Eventually, the spinning slows to reveal the mysterious objects in repose. "It's this complete optical illusion, and by the time you're well into it, it stops and you can see how it's constructed," explains Hotchner.
Where to find it: "Otherwordly: Optical Delusions and Small Realities," through Sept 18

Facade of 2 Columbus Circle
For much of its 55-year history, the Museum of Arts & Design (formerly the Museum of Contemporary Crafts, then the American Craft Museum) was the little kid on West 53rd Street, where it resided across the street from MoMA. That changed in 2008, when the museum moved to a freshly renovated 2 Columbus Circle, an update that included some controversial modifications to the locale's previous facade (dubbed the "lollipop" building for its sticklike supports). The structure, now coated in an iridescent ivory ceramic-tile shell, provides room for the growing institution, which has a multidisciplinary focus beyond its craft foundations. Traces of that history remain though, such as in the choice of material for the building's exterior, a unique form of glazed terra-cotta. "We expanded our scope to include and to think about artists who are invested in materials and process," says Hotchner.

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