Surreal Beauty at the Cooper Hewitt Triennial

Surreal Beauty at the Cooper Hewitt Triennial

"BEAUTY—COOPER HEWITT DESIGN TRIENNIAL" IS A TRIBUTE TO EXQUISITE CRAFT IN THE REALMS OF ART, FASHION, AND CULTURE. V SPEAKS WITH A FEW OF THE CREATORS BEHIND THE COMPELLING COLLECTION, ON DISPLAY NOW

"BEAUTY—COOPER HEWITT DESIGN TRIENNIAL" IS A TRIBUTE TO EXQUISITE CRAFT IN THE REALMS OF ART, FASHION, AND CULTURE. V SPEAKS WITH A FEW OF THE CREATORS BEHIND THE COMPELLING COLLECTION, ON DISPLAY NOW

Styling: SAMUEL ANDERSON

Still haunted by last weekend when we were all forced to care about football? “Beauty—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial,” opening today, will remind you of the finer things in life. The exhibit is a both a shiny object-lover’s delight and a multifaceted sensory experience—proving that there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to our undeniable obsession with beauty.

For its fifth triennial, the Upper East Side institution, perched high above the downtown march of Fashion Week, displays some show-stopping couture of its own. The exhibit begins with a confectionary taffeta gown by Giambattista Valli, followed by two textured geometric numbers from Mary Katrantzou’s 2015 collections. Just as thrillingly, the exhibit immortalizes the delightful ephemera of fashion with portraits featuring the jewel masks that Pat McGrath expertly applied for Givenchy in 2013 and hairstylist Guido Palau’s trendsetting chops. In addition to the hair and makeup, the museum-grade nail art by Naomi Yasuda demonstrate the show’s head-to-toe curation.

Twelve surrealist animal sculptures inhabit the exhibit’s upper floor courtesy of the visionary Haas Brothers, who talked to V about collaborating with traditional South African bead artists to create the Technicolor critters. “When Cooper Hewitt asked us to be in the ‘transgressive’ section of the exhibit, we thought, What is it about art and design that doesn’t quite sit well with us? It came down to sharing credit with people who work with you,” Simon said. “A lot of artists have giant teams making things, but it’s just [about] them at the end of the day.”

“Not only did we want to share credit,” added Nikolai. “We wanted to support an in-need community. On a trip to Cape Town, we found these women who were making incredible beadwork, but didn’t have a great living situation. We put them on salary, and they did all the beading in the show. That’s the ultimate function of design: to create a bridge and a cultural exchange.”

The Cooper Hewitt Triennial’s mix of style and substance is well worth the trip uptown, and will be on view through August 21.

Installation view of "Beauty"Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial." Photo by Matt Flynn © 2016 Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Installation view of "Beauty"Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial." Photo by Matt Flynn © 2016 Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Installation view of the PolyThread knitted textile pavilion, designed by Jenny E. Sabin, commissioned for Beauty"Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial. Photo by Matt Flynn © 2016 Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

Installation view of "Beauty"Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial." Photo by Matt Flynn © 2016 Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Installation view of "Beauty"Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial." Photo by Matt Flynn © 2016 Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Installation view of "Beauty"Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial." Photo by Matt Flynn © 2016 Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Installation view of "Beauty"Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial." Photo by Matt Flynn © 2016 Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Installation view of ""Beauty"Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial."" Photo by Matt Flynn © 2016 Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Installation view of "Beauty"Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial." Photo by Matt Flynn © 2016 Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Ana Rajcevic (Serbian, active in Germany and United Kingdom, b. 1983); Wearable sculpture, from ANIMAL: The Other Side of Evolution collection, 2012; Fiberglass, polyurethane, rubber; 21 x 34 x 16 cm (8 1/4 x 13 3/8 x 6 5/16 in.)

Naomi Yasuda (Japanese, active in USA, b. 1984); Black and White Graph, 2015; Gel. New work will appear in exhibition.

Credits: PHOTOS COURTESY COOPER HEWITT

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