Announcing 2016 exhibition “Beauty – Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial”

Homa Delvaray (Iranian, b. 1980); Digital illustration, Tehran Touch, Iranian Graphic Design New Scene, 2014; 100 ◊ 70 cm (39 3/8 ◊ 27 9/16 in.)
Homa Delvaray (Iranian, b. 1980); Digital illustration, Tehran Touch, Iranian Graphic Design New Scene, 2014

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum will present “Beauty – Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial,” the fifth installment of the museum’s popular contemporary design exhibition series, from Feb. 12 through Aug. 21, 2016. With projects ranging from experimental prototypes and interactive games to fashion ensembles and architectural interventions, “Beauty” will fill most of two floors of the museum with more than 250 works by 62 designers from around the globe.

“Featuring recent work from the most outstanding voices in the global design scene, ‘Beauty’ will expand the discourse around the transformative power of aesthetic innovation,” says Caroline Baumann, director of the museum. “The exhibition will celebrate design as a creative endeavor that engages the mind, body and senses with works of astonishing form and surprising function.”

Organized by assistant curator Andrea Lipps and senior curator of Contemporary Design Ellen Lupton, the exhibition explores beauty through seven lenses: extravagant, intricate, ethereal, transgressive, emergent, elemental and transformative.

Designers use rich materials and shimmering, sometimes deceptive, surfaces to create an aura of luxury, glamour, seduction and excess. Highlights of the works on view include makeup artist Pat McGrath’s transformative visages; Giambattista Valli’s candy-colored gowns that beg to be touched, smelled, even tasted; and hair artist Guido Palau, who creates fantastic hairstyles that consistently push the field, and our eye, forward.

Performing astonishing feats of craftsmanship and physical construction, designers and artisans create textured or patterned surfaces that engage the eye in a wandering journey. Among the works on view in this section include the voluptuous typography of Non-Format; the textured garments of fashion designerMary Katrantzou, which glisten from a distance and pulse with intimate detail up close; and, the work of Studio Job, featuring patterns that appear traditional at first glance yet give way to a jarring iconography of the everyday – from gas masks and peace signs to syringes and kitchen tools.

Designers create forms that shape space, time, light or air, sometimes defying permanence and weight in favor of ephemeral materials or fleeting effects. Highlights of the designer projects on view include work by scent artist Sissel Tolaas, who collects and preserves smell molecules from around the world and has been commissioned by the museum to create a new scent based on Central Park; and a grid of analog clocks that forms a giant digital timepiece whose elements align every 60 seconds to read out the time in numerals made of clock hands, created by the firm Humans Since 1982.

Embracing androgyny, antiform, the grotesque, the formless and the fantastic, designers blur established boundaries and definitions, challenging normative standards of beauty, gender, genre or behaviour. Works on view include Ana Rajcevic’s Animal headpieces, which partly obscure the face of the wearer, questioning the boundary between humans and animals; Noa Zilberman’s jewelry series Wrinkles, which distributes lines of gold across the artist’s face and cleavage; the unisex clothing collections of Rad Hourani; and Afreaks, a collection of fantastical beaded creatures created by the Haas Brothers in collaboration with female beaders from the Khayelitsha informal settlement outside Cape Town, South Africa.

Emulating nature and embracing code and mathematics, designers create rules and processes that determine the final outcome of a project, working with data flows and user interactions to create responsive forms. Featured work includes Daniel Brown’s digital blossoms, which celebrate the glamour of artifice; Neri Oxman’s Wanderers, 3-D-printed wearable objects permeated with capillaries and seeded with microorganisms to enable future survival on distant planets; and Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg’s project Designing for the Sixth Extinction, which depicts genetically engineered creatures that could someday clean the air of toxins, neutralize acid in the soil and collect and scatter seeds. Cooper Hewitt has commissioned architect Jenny Sabin to design a knitted, textile structure for the exhibition.

Drawing energy and character from basic materials, designers create serene geometries and uncluttered forms that invite intuitive interaction from users. The exhibition will feature works by Sam Hecht and Kim Colin, founders of Industrial Facility, who find beauty in the equilibrium of making, use and memory; Formafantasma and Emiliano Godoy, who give shape to lava and glass respectively, materials that shift from liquid to solid; and Yeongkyu Yoo, whose World Clock rolls to display the time in all 24 time zones.

Under the hand of the designer, familiar materials, vocabularies or forms assume new and surprising identities. Featured projects include the furniture and objects of Brynjar Sigurðarson, who borrows materials and techniques from Icelandic fishermen;Jantje Fleischhut’s abstract jewelry, shaped from precious materials and found objects that suggest asteroids and interstellar debris; and Laduma Ngxokolo’s line of knitted garments, designed for young men in South Africa’s Xhosa community who have passed through the rite of circumcision.

“Beauty—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial” is made possible by generous support from Edward and Helen Hintz.

Additional funding is provided by Margery and Edgar Masinter, May and Samuel Rudin Family Foundation Inc. and Rockwell Group.

A 276-page book with 274 images, designed by Kimberly Varella of Content Object Design Studio, is published by Cooper Hewitt and distributed by Artbook | DAP (Distributed Art Publishers), $50.00. The publication “Beauty—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial” will be available beginning December 2015, in advance of the exhibition.

In spring and summer 2016, a series of public programs will inspire dialogue about design and beauty. Planned events include Magical Materialism, Beauty + Biology and Graphics + Interaction.

Inaugurated in 2000, the Triennial series looks at new developments in design as they surface in studios, fairs, shops, galleries and media around the world. In organizing “Beauty—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial,” the museum engaged a panel of international curatorial advisors early in its process: Adélia Borges (Brazil), Claire Catterall (England), Kenya Hara (Japan), Mugendi M’Rithaa (South Africa), Suvi Saloniemi (Finland), Sarah Scaturro (United States) and Annemartine van Kesteren (Netherlands). The exhibition is designed by Tsao & McKown Architects.

As the only museum in the United States devoted exclusively to historic and contemporary design, Cooper Hewitt educates, inspires and empowers people through design. The museum has recently undergone a transformative renovation resulting in an entirely new visitor experience and 60 per cent more exhibition space to showcase one of the most diverse and comprehensive collections of design works in existence.

Cooper Hewitt is located at 2 East 91st St. at Fifth Avenue in New York City. Hours are Sunday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The new Tarallucci e Vino café is open daily at 8 a.m. The Arthur Ross Terrace & Garden, currently under renovation, opens in early fall 2015 and will be accessible without an admissions ticket through the new East 90th Street entrance. The museum is closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Public transit routes include the Lexington Avenue 4, 5 and 6 subways (86th or 96th Street stations) and the Fifth and Madison Avenue buses. Adult admission, $18; seniors, $12; students, $9. Cooper Hewitt members and children younger than age 18 are admitted free. Pay What You Wish every Saturday, 6 to 9 p.m. The museum is fully accessible.

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