Beauty - Cooper Hewitt

Designer on view in “Beauty—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial:” Ana Rajcevic. Courtesy of Fernando Lessa.

Having organized the last triennial around the weighty question of design’s role in saving the planet, the curators of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s fifth edition were hungry for “that other side—in other words, beauty,” says Ellen Lupton, the museum’s senior curator of contemporary design. This time, sensation and astonishment trump function and systems. Traversing genres, “Beauty—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial” ____ (February 12 through August 21) showcases more than 250 works by 62 innovators from around the globe. Look for the jewelry-like typography of Richard Niessen and Homa Delvaray; the transgressive iconography of Studio Job’s ornamental wallpaper; the Haas Brothers’ beaded creatures (made in collaboration with female artisans from a South African settlement); and Ana Rajcevic’s weirdly elemental “Animal” headpieces, which were inspired by the ways in which animals use their horns both to attract and repel. One section is devoted to designers who employ digital means to create forms that mimic nature. There, visitors will have the chance to stand inside a computer-generated pavilion fashioned for the show by the architect Jenny Sabin. Says Lupton, “We want to celebrate that aspect of design that can’t be boiled down to ‘Oh, it’s a service; it’s a button on a phone.’ This is more for the spirit, the body. It’s a visceral experience.”