Art & Culture

Rube Goldberg, the US Revolution, and glass: Take a look at these new and quirky exhibits

Harriet Baskas, special to
Red Baby Booties courtesy of the Museum of American Revolution
Source: Museum of American Revolution

Thinking about taking a trip to the museum in the new year? You might be in luck.

Across the U.S., original sketches for Rube Goldberg's kooky contraptions, Revolutionary-era artifacts, Louis Comfort Tiffany's glass mosaics and iconic work by many of America's most notable artists are featured in new and soon-to-open museum exhibits around the country, and even across the water in London.

CNBC recently took a look around at some of the more quirky and interesting exhibits opening in 2017. If you're on your way to your next vacation, or just need an excuse to take in some culture, check your calendar and leave room in your schedule for these displays.

By Harriet Baskas, special to

22 January 2017

Into the mind of Rube Goldberg

Rube Goldberg exhibition at Seattle's MoPop Museum Rube Goldberg Inventions
Source: MoPop Museum Rube Goldberg Inventions

Why do something in one easy step when you can accomplish the same task with a wacky, over-engineered contraption?

That's the idea American illustrator Rube Goldberg celebrated and popularized across a career that spanned more than 7 decades, in zany drawings spooled out and syndicated around the world. During the 1920s and 30s, the artist's work became so well-known that "Rube Goldberg" became a dictionary-approved adjective to describe a machine or invention that is extremely clever and assuming, but unnecessarily complicated.

A new retrospective of Goldberg's work, including 75 original drawings, political cartoons, videos and related art will debut at Seattle's Museum of Popular Culture (MoPop), from February through April 24, 2017. Afterward, the exhibit will travel to the Grand Rapids Art Museum (Grand Rapids, MI) and the Cotemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, CA.

Relive the American Revolution

Washington Headquarters Tent in Snow
Getty Images

Opening April 19, 2017 in historic landmark-filled downtown Philadelphia, the new Museum of American Revolution will tell the story of the country's founding with a treasure trove of thousands of Revolutionary-era artifacts, including muskets, swords, and the first newspaper printing of the Declaration of the Independence.

"The crown jewel of our collection is George Washington's Headquarters Tent, which served as both his office and his sleeping quarters when he was in the field," said Michael Quinn, President and CEO of the museum. "As far as we can determine no other tent from the Revolution survives, and Washington's tent tells the story of his inspiring leadership, unyielding determination, and steadfast devotion to his troops," Quinn added.

Built by Robert A.M. Stern Architects, the impressive new Museum of the American Revolution also houses high-tech digital interactives, a 45-foot privateer ship that visitors can board, and a life-sized replica of America's first Liberty Tree.

A touch of glass

Corning NY Tiffany glass mosaic
Source: Tiffany & Co.

"Tiffany glass" usually conjures up images of colorful stained glass windows and lamps. However, artist Louis Comfort Tiffany also excelled a variety of other art forms, including stunning glass mosaics. From May 20, 2017 through January 7, 2018, the Corning Museum of Glass in the Finger Lakes region of central New York will feature nearly 50 works of Tiffany glass.

Writers mecca

American Writers Museum
Source: American Writers Museum

The American Writers Museum is scheduled to open in Chicago sometime this spring, a homage to poets, authors and commentators. Already, the exhibit is ranked in the Top Ten of Lonely Planet's list of this year's exciting new openings around the world.

Across the pond

Vot McGovern courtesy of the British Museum
Source: British Museum

London's museums are always a draw, but during 2017 there are five world class exhibitions that are worth a special trip.

The first posthumous retrospective of work by Robert Rauschenberg, from six decades of his career, is at the Tate Modern through April 2, 2017. Later in 2017 (July 12 to October 22), the Tate welcomes "Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power," featuring work by Norman Lewis, Lorraine O'Grady and Betye Saar.

At the Royal Academy of Arts, 45 iconic works by artists such as Georgia O'Keefe, Edward Hopper, Jackson Pollock and others offer insight into life after the 1929 Wall Street crash in 'America after the Fall: Painting in the 1930s,' from February 24 to June 4, 2017.

Also, from March 9, 2017 through June 18, 2018, the British Museum hosts "The American Dream: Pop to the present," an exhibition filled with prints from five decades of US history. It features work from Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Ed Ruscha, Chuck Close and Louise Bourgeois along with others.