During a recent trip to San Diego, I spent an afternoon in Balboa Park, an expansive and beautifully landscaped area that is home to some of California’s best museums.
I was no stranger to Balboa, having visited the San Diego Museum of Art many times when I lived just south of LA.
However, I had never visited the Mingei International Museum until this most recent visit.
I had no idea what I’d been missing!
Founded by artist and scholar Martha Longenecker in 1978, the Mingei is one of the premier craft and design museums in the country.
The Mingei’s impressive collection includes folk art, craft and design objects from myriad cultures (Mexican, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Africa, Pre-Columbian, Middle Eastern, to name a few). The museum’s theme is “use”; all of the objects on display have some sort of functional value.
During my visit, I took in an impressive display of Mexican tequila bottles from various eras (my favorite were the ones featuring hand-carved scenes from the Mexican Revolution) and a retrospective of the famed British clothing designer, Zandra Rhodes (on display until April, 2011).
What impressed me most about the Mingei was the curatorial innovation and panache. For example, famous Zandra Rhodes creations were paired with functional objects from the museum’s permanent collection that reflected the cultural or aesthetic inspiration for the garment.
The Mingei also has a high-quality bookstore and gift shop, featuring a plethora of art and design books and collectable objects from around the world.
The Mingei International Museum
Balboa Park, San Diego
1439 El Prado - on the Plaza de Panama
San Diego CA 92101
Tuesday - Sunday: 10 am to 4 pm
Closed Mondays and national holidays
Adults: $7.00; Seniors:$5.00; Youth (6-17): $4.00; Students and Active Military: $3.00; Tour group per person rate (10 or more); Members and children under 6: Free
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