Venetian palazzo dollhouse showcased at MAD starting May 8

Collector Joanna Fisher created the petite universe featured in the upcoming exhibit The Fisher Dollhouse: A Venetian Palazzo in Miniature

Collector Joanna Fisher created the petite universe featured in the upcoming exhibit The Fisher Dollhouse: A Venetian Palazzo in Miniature.

NEW YORK – Inspired by Venice’s glamorous Gritti Palace, The Fisher Dollhouse: A Venetian Palazzo in Miniature will make its public debut at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) on May 8. With a 15th-century classical exterior and 10 rooms filled with an eclectic range of historical and contemporary craft, art, and design rendered in miniature, The Fisher Dollhouse: A Venetian Palazzo in Miniature displays an impressive collection of contemporary art created by more than ten international artists, many of whom are working in miniature for the first time.

New York collector, maker, and arts patron Joanna Fisher conceived of the dollhouse in response to the lockdown required by the COVID-19 pandemic. Like so many, she was housebound and felt her world shrink, and embraced it, literally. The dollhouse project offered Fisher a form of therapy. It provided a safe haven and, with ever-inward retreat during quarantine, an escape.

Select miniature artworks created for the exhibit by Ryan McGinness, Hunt Slonum, and Peter Gerakaris.

Select miniature artworks created for the exhibit by Ryan McGinness, Hunt Slonem, and Peter Gerakaris

“’The House Within’ is how I think about this project. A place people can go to in their minds,” said Fisher. “This was born in the pandemic. An emotional home I found within myself. A safe place created in my imagination. That is how this came to be.”

Fisher was familiar with the Museum of the City of New York’s Stettheimer Dollhouse. This, plus Rachel Lee Hovnanian’s suggestion that the project could be like a miniature version of Peggy Guggenheim’s Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, lead her to commission micro-artworks from artist friends and collaborators. All working in isolation, many found an unexpected sense of community in the creation of the dollhouse and the works within.

Select miniature furnishings created for the exhibit, which opens May 8

Select miniature furnishings created for the exhibit, which opens May 8

Peter Gerakaris’s neo-Byzantine icon presented an introspective challenge of recreating an exacting process — painting with a brush of no more than three hairs. There are also sculptural works by prominent artists, including an abstracted figure by Michele Oka Doner and one trapped in glass by Dustin Yellin. An “ancestor portrait,” a reimagined image of Fisher by Antonio Pio Saracino, is mounted in a gilt frame. Artists Tatyana Murray and Rachel Lee Hovnanian both shrunk pre-existing works: Aquatic Dream and Body Armor, respectively.

Paintings were contributed by Darren Waterston, Federico de Francesco, and Ryan McGinness, whose family joined Fisher at a recent Thanksgiving celebration where their daughters played with dollhouses together. Waterston contributed an ethereal landscape in the same spirit as a series begun during the pandemic, while Hunt Slonem gamely adapted his popular bunny imagery with smaller strokes.

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