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A Material Ecology Exhibition at the MoMA

Neri Oxman, designer and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, coined the term “material ecology” to describe techniques and objects that are informed by, and directly engage with, the structures, systems, and aesthetics of nature. An exclusive exhibition of artwork that explores Oxman’s ideas is now running at The Museum of Modern Art. Be sure to make the short trip from the Midtown condos at The Centrale to marvel in it. Then, reflect on what you’ve seen over lunch at a true New York landmark.


The Exhibition

 Neri Oxman’s art is like no other. Her works are stunning composites of biology, design, computing, and engineering. The pieces she creates are surreal but also somehow familiar, largely because of their roots in the natural world. You may already know of her stunning “wearable structures,” that is, a series of 3D-printed “skins,” and her mysteriously fascinating “death masks.” She also founded the Mediated Matter Group, which, among other things, has designed and fabricated an eerily organic five-meter-tall structure — it looks a bit like a chrysalis for some gigantic alien butterfly — using components found in tree branches, insect exoskeletons, and bones.


Oxman’s work has been seen across the world, from the Pompidou Centre in Paris to Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. And from now until May 25, her work finds a home at Midtown’s MoMA. Here, Oxman has produced seven “demos” — objects and structures that are designed as if they were grown by Mother Nature herself. They herald a melding of biology, architecture, engineering, and design. And, according to Oxman, the materials and processes involved in making them may one day be harnessed by designers and architects.


The Lunch

 After spending time contemplating unique artworks in the gallery, it’s time to take your thoughts to another stimulating New York institution. The 21 Club sits conveniently behind MoMA, offering up a luxury dining spot where you and your art-loving friends can convene for cocktails or a fabulous meal. You can hardly miss this historic venue where Ernest Hemingway once sank margaritas: Its entrance is flanked by 33 models of jockeys, all in colorful outfits.


The 21 Club’s low-lit Bar Room is festooned with sports memorabilia, gifted by world-famous athletes. (And yes, that broken tennis racket did belong to John McEnroe.) But assuming you’re here for lunch, make your way to Bar ’21’ & Lounge, where sumptuous leather banquettes, gilt-frame paintings, and an exquisite bar menu await. Start with one of the bar’s flagship dirty martinis, and chat with your fellow art aficionados about what you’ve just experienced. The conversation will almost certainly be curtailed when the food arrives. Allow us to recommend the jumbo shrimp cocktail and the “Speakeasy” steak tartare with quail egg and potato crisps. Much like the 21 Club itself, these dishes are artworks in their own right.

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