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Museum of Arts and Design Collection Exhibition Highlights Craft's Advancements from 1950s to Today

Craft Front & Center
May 22, 2021—February 13, 2022

New York, NY (April 8, 2021)

Once at the margins of the art world, today craft is front and center in art galleries, museums, and fairs, widely recognized for its expressive potential and cultural significance. On view at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) from May 22 to Feb. 13, 2022, Craft Front & Center brings together more than 70 iconic and lesser-known works, assembled from the eclectic richness of the Museum’s permanent collection, to highlight key touchpoints in craft’s history that have led to the current moment.

“Craft Front & Center captures the creative revolution in materials, processes, and subject matter that has transformed our understanding and expectations of art,” said Elissa Auther, MAD’s Deputy Director of Curatorial Affairs and the William and Mildred Lasdon Chief Curator. “Like craft itself, the exhibition is down-to-earth and democratic. We want everyone to experience the joy, genius, humor, and more that objects made by hand bring to the world.”

Challenging traditional thinking of craft as separate from fine art, the exhibition reveals the field's deep engagement in art’s major movements, such as Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, and Postmodernism, while also launching its own revolutions, particularly the elevation of women and people of color as significant artists.  
MAD’s collection comprises more than 3,000 artworks in clay, fiber, glass, metal, and wood, dating from the post-war studio craft movement through to contemporary art and design. With an aim to subvert traditional hierarchies in the arts, the collection advocates for the central role of craft in art and society.

Toward that end, Craft Front & Center is organized into eight themes exploring craft’s impact:

  • In the Formation of Identity
    From the personal to the political, craft stimulates important conversations around race, gender, and sexuality.
  • In the Gallery
    Beginning in the 1950s, artists engaged with traditional craft materials and created powerful assertions of materiality and process that attracted museums and collectors alike.
  • In the Home
    Handmade objects are potent receptacles of emotions and memories, infused with human warmth that enliven and enrich the home.
  • What Can You Do with an Object?
    A look back at the seminal exhibition Objects: USA (1969) and the works displayed whose innovations still resonate.
  • What Can You Do with a Thread?
    Fiber artists past and present have generated works of amazing complexity and conceptual ingenuity. 
  • What Can You Do with Clay?
    The funny and eccentric “Funk” movement was embraced by California ceramicists in the 1960s and remains a major influence on younger makers today.
  • What Can You Do with Glass?
    A focused retrospective of the career of studio-glass pioneer Marvin Lipofsky.
  • What Can You Do with Craft?
    A look at the modern and contemporary artists who have absorbed studio craft’s legacy and expanded its boundaries.

Each thematic section is punctuated with pivotal and rarely seen works from iconic makers, such as Betty Woodman, Marvin Lipofsky, and Magdalena Abakanowicz. The exhibition also casts a fresh eye on craft’s pioneers; celebrating Olga de Amaral, Charles Loloma, Patti Warashina, and others who pushed the boundaries of materials and sought more inclusive sources of inspiration.

Craft Front & Center’s gallery experience will be enhanced with video content, accessible via QR codes. The videos will allow visitors to glean rich insights about the works and artists on view directly from the curatorial team. Additionally, a number of public programs, to be announced, will be offered to extend the exhibition content to audiences of all ages. For more information, visit


Craft Front & Center was organized by the Museum of Arts and Design’s entire curatorial team: Elissa Auther, Deputy Director of Curatorial Affairs and the William and Mildred Lasdon Chief Curator; Barbara Paris Gifford, Associate Curator; Samantha De Tillio, Collections Curator; Angelik Vizcarrondo-Laboy, Assistant Curator; and Christian Larsen, Windgate Research Curator, with assistance from Alida Jekabson, Curatorial Assistant.

This exhibition is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.

The National Endowment for the Humanities and the Museum of Arts and Design together: democracy demands wisdom.


Magdalena Abakanowicz (Poland, 1930–2017); Terese Agnew (United States, b. 1959); Tanya Aguiñiga (United States, b. 1978); Natalia Arbelaez (United States, b. 1983); Robert Arneson (United States, 1930–1992); Marcus Amerman (Choctaw Nation, b. 1959); Clayton Bailey (United States, 1939–2020); Lynn Basa (United States, b. 1954); Paul J. Begay (Navajo Nation, b. circa 1965); Guillermo Bert (Chile, b. 1959); Sanford Biggers (United States, b. 1970); Campana Brothers: Humberto Campana (Brazil, b. 1953), Fernando Campana (Brazil, b. 1961); Nicole Cherubini (United States, b. 1970); Dale Chihuly (United States, b. 1941); Lia Cook (United States, b. 1942); Amber Cowan (United States, b. 1981); Michael Cummings (United States, b. 1945); Popovi Da (Tewa, 1923–1971); Olga de Amaral (Colombia, b. 1932); Michele Oka Doner (United States, b. 1945); Allen Fannin (United States, b. 1940); Dorothy Fannin (United States, b. 1941); Josh Faught (United States, b. 1979); Viola Frey (United States, 1933–2004); David Gilhooly (United States, 1943–2013); William Harper (United States, b. 1944); Sanae Hattori (Japan, b. circa 1950s); Howard Kottler (United States, 1930–1989); Marvin Lipofsky (United States, 1938–2016); Chunghie Lee (South Korea, b. 1945); Charles Loloma (Hopi,1921–1991); Tom Lundberg (United States, b. 1953); Sam Maloof (United States, 1916–2009); John C. Marshall (United States, b. 1936); Maria Martinez (Tewa, 1884–1981); Carolyn Mazloomi (United States, b. 1948); Gertrud Natzler (Austria, 1908–1971); Otto Natzler (Austria, 1908–2007); Pearl Nuvangyaoma (Hopi, 1927–2007); Marilyn R. Pappas (United States, b. 1931); Dylan Poblano (Zuni, b. 1974); Svetozar Radakovich (Serbia, 1918–1998); Elaine Reichek (United States, b. 1943); Ed Rossbach (United States, 1914–2002); Joyce J. Scott (United States, b. 1948); Kay Sekimachi (United States, b. 1926); Arlene Shechet (United States, b. 1951); Cindy Sherman (United States, b. 1954); Richard Shaw (United States, b. 1941); Cauleen Smith (United States, b. 1967); James Tanner (United States, b. 1941); Nádia Taquary (Brazil, b. 1942); Lenore Tawney (United States, 1907–2007); Peter Voulkos (United States, 1924–2002); Juliana Lima Vasconcellos (Brazil, b. 1980); Patti Warashina (United States, b. 1940); Katherine Westphal (United States, 1919–2018); Marguerite Wildenhain (France, 1896–1985); Eva Queen Wolfe (Cherokee Nation, 1922–2004); Betty Woodman (United States, 1930–2018).


The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) champions contemporary makers across creative fields and presents the work of artists, designers, and artisans who apply the highest level of ingenuity and skill. Since the Museum’s founding in 1956 by philanthropist and visionary Aileen Osborn Webb, MAD has celebrated all facets of making and the creative processes by which materials are transformed, from traditional techniques to cutting-edge technologies. Today, the Museum’s curatorial program builds upon a rich history of exhibitions that emphasize a cross-disciplinary approach to art and design, and reveals the workmanship behind the objects and environments that shape our everyday lives. MAD provides an international platform for practitioners who are influencing the direction of cultural production and driving twenty-first-century innovation, and fosters a participatory setting for visitors to have direct encounters with skilled making and compelling works of art and design. For more information, visit

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