The Museum of Craft and Design reopened in a new industrial location this month after a spate of pop-up shops and a move from its previous downtown San Francisco location. Board members opted for cheaper rents rather than higher foot traffic in order to continue with the broad mandate its name implies.
From a cultural standpoint, what’s particularly appealing about the museum is its name. Design and—even more so—craft occupy a more quotidian space in public perception of arts than, say, fine arts like oil painting. These terms can be an ego punch, but they’re also a way to lower the barrier to entry that the high walls of a museum can present—at least for museumgoers. It’s arbitrary, but the difference between “craft” and “art” is huge in the American psyche. The first seems more housework than artwork—although its creation can be be finer.
But really, the Museum of Craft and Design is a museum like any other (except you’re supposedly allowed to touch some of the work). And the work of the artists featured would happily find itself in a museum with a haughtier name.
The small museum houses three exhibitions, a group working area and the perfunctory museum giftshop. It’s a beautiful open space that possesses good design: clean lines, fun but effacing furniture, and hipper bathrooms than those normally open to public use. The Museum of Craft and Design is utilitarian in the best way possible.
Currently Rebecca Hutchinson‘s Affinity hangs down from the rafters in a corner room. The works are made of porcelain, paperclay, paper and natural materials and look like a post-apocalyptic wilderness just rained over with volcanic ash, preserving everything as it lay.
In a darker room nearby, Creatures from the Deep by Arline Fisch swim in suspended animation like the jellyfish they resemble. Fisch uses textile patterns to form thin wires into aquatic sculptures that congregate at the ocean’s depths.
A retrospective of work by Michael Cooper takes up the main gallery. His multimedia creations are mashups of cars, guns and furniture, among other reoccurring subjects. The larger-than-life creations look like an upscale take on steampunk, with wood inlay appropriate for luxury cars and housing.
The night Visual.ly attended, museum workers were setting up for a crafts lab with e-commerce crafts site Etsy. Outside the small workshop area hung signs reminding guests not to bring beer from the event into the gallery. It might be a craft and design museum, but no one’s mistaking it for anything but art.
Rani Molla has a digital media master’s degree from Columbia Journalism School. She’s a journalism reader, writer, photographer, videographer, data visualizer and general doer. Follow her on Twitter.