The fifth design triennial at the Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum opens next month in New York. It is the first iteration of the event since the museum’s three-year, $91m renovation was completed in December 2014. The show focuses on a simple theme: beauty.
It is organised by the in-house curators Ellen Lupton and Andrea Lipps and is a contrast to the previous edition in 2010, which emphasised the way designers have dealt with environmental issues and the growing demand for sustainable design. Aesthetics have always been a contested issue. “Some of the designers would say that beauty was very much a byproduct of their work,” Lipps says of conversations she had while organising the forthcoming exhibition. “Nonetheless, it still is an outcome, and it’s a way in which we experience an object,” she says, adding that beauty “very much fell out of favour in the 20th century” but that the situation is changing today.
Seven themes, including extravagance and intricacy, will anchor seven galleries. One space, which focuses on “transgressive” work, includes Afreaks (2015), a group of creatures made by the Haas Brothers with beaders from outside Cape Town, South Africa. Also included is a new commission: a knitted work by Jenny Sabin that will serve as an entry point into one of the galleries.
The exhibition is funded primarily by Edward and Helen Hintz.
• Beauty: Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial, Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, New York, 12 February-21 August