Just a few months into his position as the newly minted director, it’s clear that Christopher Scoates was the right man for the job at the Museum of Arts and Design. MAD, as it’s known, is New York City’s champion and presenter of artists, designers, and artisans at the highest level of ingenuity and craftsmanship. Scoates, who relocated to New York from Michigan’s Cranbrook Academy of Art and Art Museum, is bringing with him a pedigreed past in the arts along with a vision of how to steer MAD into the rest of this century.
“There’s a very strong craft legacy at MAD,” Scoates says, “and my goal is to shore up that legacy while expanding upon experimental programing in design.” One of Scoates’s standout accomplishments while serving as director of Cranbrook was to develop a program in 4-D design. “I became very interested in having a new technology program like 4-D butt up against the more traditional disciplines of craft, believing that they could inform each other in new and unexpected ways,” he explains.
Now MAD is set for some new ways of its own, especially as Scoates aims to pave the path for a more robust future of design through experimental programing and an emphasis on the interactive elements, which are intriguing a new generation of students in the discipline. With this eye to the future, there will surely be a new language for exhibitions at MAD. First up is the punk exhibit already in the works for spring. Curated by Andrew Blauvelt and coming from Cranbrook to New York, the exhibit, “Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die: Punk Graphics, 1976–1986,” explores the unique visual language of the punk movement from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s through hundreds of its most memorable graphics: flyers, posters, albums, promotions, and zines. Since its rebellious inception in the ’70s, punk has always manifested itself in very visual forms of expression, from the dress and hairstyles of its devotees and the onstage theatrics of its musicians to the graphic design of its various forms of printed matter. As such, punk’s energy coalesced into a powerful subcultural phenomenon that transcended music to affect other fields like visual art and design. Set to open on April 9, 2019, this exhibit will be more focused on punk in New York and is expected to have a series of events surrounding it—talks, lectures, films, and performances—meant to draw a younger audience in.
But we don’t have to wait until spring to discover what’s new at MAD. Opening this month, “Sterling Ruby: Ceramics” is the first museum exhibition to focus on the ceramic works of Los Angeles–based artist Sterling Ruby. Ruby’s larger body of art includes a wide range of formats, many with a relationship to craft traditions, both studio and amateur. Sculptures in clay, which the artist calls his “monumental material,” have long held a fascinating and primary position in Ruby’s studio work, and the medium has a long tradition across many cultures, used by artists and craftspeople to create both functional objects and high art.
Also on display now through March are the works by finalists for MAD’s exciting and inaugural Burke Prize for contemporary art. The prize, named for craft collectors Marian and Russell Burke, drew an outstandingly diverse and competitive pool of 500 artists working to expand the field of craft. The exhibition, “The Burke Prize 2018: The Future of Craft Part 2,” includes 36 works in all by the 16 finalists, from jewelry to installation, furniture, and digital media. Both the prize and its accompanying exhibition continue MAD’s founding mission of championing artists who work in craft media and methodologies. It’s a way of bringing attention to the breadth and variety of work being made by young artists nationwide, and that’s a future Scoates—and MAD—are counting on.