New York: A Peek into the Jazz Age at the Cooper Hewitt

Joey: “Hey, what have you guys been up to?”

Ross: “Oh, we went to see a collection of Victorian doorknobs at the Cooper Hewitt Museum.”

Chandler: “Without ME?!?”

Yes, I admit that, until about two weeks ago, this bit of dialogue from Friends was my primary association with the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum. In addition to that, I knew the Cooper Hewitt was part of NYC’s Museum Mile on the Upper East Side, and I knew I wanted to visit it (someday)…but that was pretty much it. Luckily, now I have visited, and now I know: the Cooper Hewitt is really wonderful!

At the time of my visit, the major exhibit was “The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s.” I’ve always loved flapper style, which the exhibit featured plenty of, but I was not as familiar with other aspects of the period. This exhibit changed that, as it’s quite comprehensive. In fact, as the Cooper Hewitt notes, the exhibit “is a multi-media experience of more than 400 examples of interior design, industrial design, decorative art, jewelry, fashion, and architecture, as well as related music and film.” Let’s dig in!

One thing I loved about the Cooper Hewitt was how many gorgeous textiles, tapestries, and wall hangings it had. Isn’t this gold one stunning?

I was mildly obsessed with this collection of green vases:

The first thing I thought when I saw this ornate screen was how much it reminded me of the Great Gatsby’s credits . Right?!

The lighting wasn’t great, but the below is a shot of the museum’s main staircase. It was grand and gorgeous:

One of my favorite rooms was the one filled with miniature trinkets all bedazzled and bedecked with gems. They were the most beautiful little works of art!

The below is a close-up of a dress – I couldn’t get over how marvelous this intricate embroidery was.

In addition to all the Jazz Age finery, the museum features several other exhibits. Downstairs, I was delighted by Esperanza Spalding Selects, which, as museum explains, “is the 15th installation of Cooper Hewitt’s Selects exhibition series in which designers, artists, architects, and public figures are invited to examine and interpret the museum’s collection of more than 210,000 objects.” This room was packed with a lot of interesting patterns, textures, and colors.

And finally, if you duck through the gift shop, you’ll find the Cooper Hewitt’s gorgeous garden (also open to the general public). It was a lovely space! If I lived in the UES, I could see myself popping in here quite frequently.

The Bottom Line: If you are interested in design – whether it be interior, graphic, costume, or any other kind – the Cooper Hewitt will definitely be your jam. It might be overshadowed by other the Upper East Side’s other powerhouse museums, but it’s definitely worth a visit.

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