Our Favourite Museums Showcasing the Beauty of Craft

Our Favourite Museums Showcasing the Beauty of Craft

Long dismissed as fine art’s poor cousin, craft is coming in from the cold, with a dazzling array of global museums and galleries showcasing the best. Here are six of our favourite spaces to visit now.

This story also appears in Volume 37: Craft.

time and continents, people have been fascinated by
finely crafted objects. Armies have plundered for it, vaults have
been built to store it. Nonetheless, craft occupies an awkward
place in the art establishment. For centuries, it’s been looked
down on as the domain of artisans, women and indigenous peoples,
placed secondary to the Old Masters’ oil paintings and the
sculptures that pack out our national galleries.

Now the zeitgeist is changing and a renewed appreciation for the
handmade, as well as a greater awareness of the institutional
racism and sexism operating in the art world, is seeing
distinctions between art and craft begin to blur. We’re here for
it. Ready to take a tour of craft’s many guises? Here are six of
our favourite museums and galleries around the globe, from big guns
to independent operations, putting craft in the spotlight.

Elevating craft: Five museums and galleries changing the
definition of art

Para Site in Hong Kong


Para Site

Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s contemporary art centre Para Site is working to
reframe the narrative around craft, and recently held a major
exhibition that travelled to Bangladesh, Myanmar, Poland, Norway
and Thailand. Titled A Beast, a God and a Line, it explores ideas
of human connection and movement across the Asia-Pacific region,
with textiles underpinning the architecture and storyline.
Co-curators Cosmin Costinas and Vivian Ziherl argue that there is a
need to “include, as a matter of urgency, practices that have been
systematically excluded from the realm of art and designated by a
colonial ethnographic gaze as craft, folklore or, at best,
‘traditional’ art”.


22/F, Wing Wah Industrial Bldg, 677 King’s Road, Quarry Bay, Hong Kong

A costume installation at MAD in New York
Photo credit: Jenna Bascom / Museum of Arts and Design


MAD Museum

New York

Although Manhattan’s Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) – located
opposite Central Park in a 5,000sq m building with a
terracotta-tiled and fritted glass facade – dropped “craft” from
its name in 2002, it remains dedicated to innovation in craft, art
and design. The 2022 line-up includes a show that pushes the
boundaries of floral arrangements; an exhibition by furniture
sculptor Chris Schanck, who works with other artists, students and
Bangladeshi craftspeople; and Queer Maximalism x Machine Dazzle,
which highlights the outrageous creations of cabaret, drag and
theatre costume designer Matthew Flower.


2 Columbus Cir, New York, NY 10019, US

Wedgewood Medallion Workshop at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London


The Victoria & Albert Museum


The V&A is the world’s largest museum of applied and
decorative arts, and although craft isn’t mentioned in its mission
statement, artisanal and handmade items are central to its
permanent collection of more than 2.3 million objects spanning
5,000 years. Among its unrivalled collection of textiles, fashion,
jewellery, furniture, metalwork, glass and ceramics are exquisite
pieces from Jingdezhen (known as China’s porcelain capital), ornate
Iznik ceramics from Turkey and famed figurines by Germany’s
Meissen. British ceramics are well represented including the
standalone V&A Wedgwood Collection at Barlaston,
Stoke-on-Trent. A highlight here is the iconic anti-slavery
medallion produced in the 18th century by Wedgwood, with an updated
narrative to reflect current debates around race and equality.


Cromwell Rd, London SW7 2RL, UK

The impressive gallery of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria
Photo credit: Timelynx


Kunsthistorisches Museum


A must-see in the Austrian capital, most visitors to the head
straight to the first floor for its outstanding collection of
European masters, which includes numerous Brueghels, two of the
remaining original (and astonishing) Four Seasons by Arcimboldo,
and Vermeer’s celebrated The Art of Painting. Just off the main
entrance is the less-trodden Kunstkammer – a 20-gallery,
2,200-piece-strong cabinet of curiosities amassed by the once
omnipotent Habsburgs before their empire collapsed in the early
20th century. Within this fantastical wing stands vitrine after
gleaming vitrine of glittering objects from the Middle Ages to the
baroque period – golden bowls, silver platters, cups made of
ostrich eggs, a ship-shaped automaton… The list goes on.


Maria-Theresien-Platz, Vienna, 1010, Austria

An intricately painted vase of indigenous Peruvian origin
Photo credit: Xapiri Ground


Xapiri Ground


High up in the Andes, in the Peruvian city of Cusco, is Xapiri
Ground, a non-profit organisation that promotes the art and culture
of Peru’s indigenous Amazonians. Its discreet shopfront hides a
trove of treasures, including intricately patterned clay animals
and jars by Shipibo-Konibo women and the vibrant geometric textiles
of the Iskonawa people. Also on show are designs by artist Emily
Urquía Sebastián, inspired by the Yine community’s traditional
body art. All monies from sales are reinvested into the creation of
more art and on-the-ground projects that facilitate sustainable
economies. According to Melanie Dizon, creative director of Xapiri
Ground: “The essence of Amazonian indigenous art is born from
mythopoesis, storytelling and song, expressed through each
culture’s iconography, techniques, colours and materials, most of
which stem from the natural environment that surrounds and sustains
their life.”


Plazoleta de San Blas 630, Cusco 08003, Peru

Fogo Island Arts, Fogo Island, Canada
Shezad Dawood, Between Land & Sea, 2021 | Photo credit: Paddy Barry


Fogo Island Arts

Fogo Island

On Fogo Island, a windswept settlement off Newfoundland, Canada,
communities have embraced a social business model in place of a
struggling cod-fishing industry. A charitable initiative,
Shorefast, founded the luxurious Fogo Island Inn and Fogo Island
Arts (FIA), a residency-based, contemporary arts organisation that
brings in artists, curators, filmmakers, writers, musicians,
designers and thinkers from around the world. The island’s wild
beauty and thoughtful art shows have become drawcards for intrepid
travellers. Many artists take cues from local craft practices. A
recent exhibition by Abbas Akhavan referenced the island’s elevated
wooden sheds for landing and processing fish. Earlier this year,
Shezad Dawood’s Between Land & Sea featured textile-based
paintings, video and a reworked handmade fishing net from the 70s.
In 2018 artist Ieva Epnere employed textiles, oral tradition and
music as key components of her work, to explore the rich local
histories embedded in the landscape.


210 Main Rd, Joe Batt’s Arm, NL A0G 2X0, Canada

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Craft, here.

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