The Joanna Fisher Dollhouse: Venetian Palazzo in Miniature
I was dazzled when I recently visited the Museum of Arts and Design at Columbus Circle in New York City to see their new exhibition The Fisher Dollhouse: A Venetian Palazzo. I’m grateful for MAD Museum for supporting the miniature arts with a presentation in small scale every few years or so. I immediately headed to the top floor gallery space to see the miniatures show!
I also had the opportunity to head back to the museum to meet Joanna Fisher for a livestream interview which you can watch the replay here:
The Fisher Dollhouse was created with a grand vision in mind by Ms. Joanna Fisher, an interior designer, patron of the arts and miniatures collector. Fisher’s childhood fascination with tiny things began when growing up in Westchester County (just north of New York City). She was inspired at an early age by a family friend who had decorative roomboxes filled with miniatures set up on walls throughout her home.
Caught up in the Covid-19 Pandemic crisis, Ms. Fisher, struggled like so many of us to ease anxieties and find comfort in the unpredictable world that engulfed the planet. Per a recent article for the New York Social Diary, she declared “…I suppose it’s the nature of the times in that people are looking for something safe and warm and cozy. It’s been a very special project for me which has taken on a life of its own, something I never expected. For me, the dollhouse was really my savior. It gave me tremendous solace. “
Fisher set out on an ambitious effort to curate a “House Within,” as she calls it, “… a place people can go in their minds…” Her vision was manifested in a stunning 4-story dollhouse with 10 rooms inspired by Palazzo Chupi, a grand private residence known for its wild color, modern art and stylish design located in New York’s Greenwich Village. Her first step was to create the structure by commissioning the British set designer Holly Jo Beck to build the front-opening dollhouse cabinet measuring over 5’ high and 14” deep.
The glamorous and colorful dollhouse is filled with an eclectic mix of European and American antique and contemporary 1/12th scale miniatures. Some pieces included were crafted by makers well-known to miniatures enthusiasts and include a Hepplewhite Desk by Bespaq, a Sonia Messer sink cabinet, silver by Pete Acquisto and metal pieces by Fred Cobbs. Most of the work was commissioned by Ms. Fisher by well-known full-size artists and friends, either reproductions of previous full-scale works or original works crafted specifically for the dollhouse. One can’t help compare Fisher as the modern version of Carrie Stettheimer who created The Stettheimer on permanent view at the Museum of the City of New York.
The dollhouse contains a dramatic center grand foyer accented by a double staircase and featuring a Murano-inspired glass chandelier made by Madrid-based artists Mario Ramos and Mariana Grande. The hierophant sitting atop a cast resin column crafted by Dustin Yeller takes center stage on the landing. Each of the rooms are beautifully decorated and appointed with swoon-worthy miniatures such as hand-blown colored glass lighting fixtures, carved framed painted portraits, hardwood cabinets, upholstered furniture with fine textiles, needlepoint carpets, furry rugs, vintage hammered copper and readable books. Some of the more extraordinary pieces comprise a lovely painted harpsichord, a display cabinet filled with ammonites from the Mesozoic age and a Milanese wood-fired stove.
The Fisher Dollhouse by Joanna Fisher is a wonderful example of original art, architecture and design in small scale with a fantastical mix of whimsy and charm with an added explosion of beguiling color coming together in dazzling perfection. There are plans to take this dollhouse exhibition “on the road” to additional museums in the United States and Europe. Check my website at www.dthomasfineminiatures.com for details on a special Meet the Miniaturist livestream event scheduled for a weekend early in August when viewers will be treated to a live virtual tour and a close up look at the dollhouse and exhibition by museum curators and a scheduled appearance by Joanna Fisher!
Photos by Jenna Bascom Courtesy of Museum of Arts and Design
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