infinite variety 
 
Nearly 25,000 visitors came to the Park Avenue Armory over six days at the end of March to see the American Folk Art Museum's exhibition Infinite Variety: Three Centuries of Red and White Quilts. Presented free to the public, visitors to the exhibition came from across the United States and as far away as South Africa, Japan, and Australia, among other countries. The phenomenal display by Thinc Design of 651 red and white American textiles—from the private collection of Joanna S. Rose—was the largest quilt exhibition ever presented under one roof in New York City.
 

Installation by Thinc Design, Photo by Gavin Ashworth
 
"Joanna Rose's gift to the people of New York City has created a stir both nationally and internationally," said Maria Ann Conelli, executive director, American Folk Art Museum. "So many quilters who attended, and many more who could not, have been emailing us to tell us how delighted they have been to learn about and experience this extraordinary collection. Quilting is one of the most popular creative expressions in America, and the American Folk Art Museum was delighted to engage this active part of the art community through the presentation of this one-of-a-kind collection."
 

Installation by Thinc Design, Photo by Gavin Ashworth
 
The exhibition attracted thousands of New Yorkers, as well as visitors to the City. "What was astonishing to us were the number of New Yorkers who came and immediately pulled out their cell phones to call or text a friend or two or three to come to the Armory and see this amazing show,” commented Infinite Variety curator Elizabeth V. Warren. “We talked with people from England, Sweden, Norway, France, Iceland, and New Zealand and then I even had one man come up to me and say 'I came all the way from downtown!'."
 

Installation by Thinc Design, Photo by Gavin Ashworth
 
Critics raved about this monumental exhibition, coordinated by project director and senior curator of the American Folk Art Museum, Stacy C. Hollander. Simon Schama of the Financial Times called the exhibition, "a freebie of pure, runaway, skipping-through-the-puddles joy," while Jerry Saltz of New York Magazine tweeted "650 stunning red/white Am. quilts @ Park Ave Armory to lift spirits, vibrate eyes. Graphic power, mystical geometry." Angela Reicher of Metropolis Magazine lauded Thinc Design's installation, "on all scales, from architectural to intimate— a 360-degree immersive experience that fuses both the whole and the parts into a transcendent example of the art of exhibition design."
 

Installation by Thinc Design, Photo by Gavin Ashworth
 
“In every way the show lived up to our hopes and from the letters and emails I receive every day I assume others felt the same,” said collector Joanna S. Rose. “My pleasure in seeing my children and grandchildren return to the exhibit again and again was multiplied when I watched quilters studying details and others with tears in their eyes, remembering family members long gone who quilted. The art critic Harold Rosenberg used to say that you know it’s folk art if people leave a show smiling. I hope the show will travel so that in this rough and tumble world we can spread the joy.”
 
A free app for ipads and smartphones, will remain available through iTunes and Android Market. The app includes images of each of the quilts, as well as statements by Joanna S. Rose, Elizabeth Warren, Maria Ann Conelli, Stacy Hollander, AFAM curator emeritus Lee Kogan and Thinc Design firm principal Tom Hennes and design director Steve Shaw. It also features the installation floor plan and elevation renderings created by Thinc Design. During the exhibition, the Rose Family donated 30 iPads to the exhibition, which were in constant use, as visitors borrowed them to use the app and learn more about the quilts on display.
 
The exhibition will ultimately be captured in the pages of a fully illustrated book co-published by the American Folk Art Museum and written by Elizabeth V. Warren with photography by Gavin Ashworth.
 

About the American Folk Art Museum

 
Currently on view at the museum is Quilts: Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum, a two-part exhibition. The first installation can be seen through April 24, 2011 and the second from May 10 to October 16, 2011. In conjunction with this presentation is a lavishly illustrated, full-color book published by Rizzoli documenting 200 quilts in the museum's collection.
 
At the museum's branch location at Lincoln Square is the exhibition Super Stars: Quilts from the Collection, November 16, 2010 - September 25, 2011.