Beauty—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial

  • A woman carefully turning to the viewer. Upon closer examination of her clothing, large Iridescent feathers fold in upon themselves into/onto her back.

    TheUnseen (London, England, United Kingdom, founded 2012): Lauren Bowker (British, b. 1985); Jacket, from the AIR collection, 2014; Leather, wind-reactive ink. Copyright: Jonny Lee Photography © TheUnseen

  • A tall tower with Arabic-inspired turrets drawn in two-point perspective. At the top of the tower, a small figure looks up at a massive crescent moon in the distance. The moon is one third the size of the tall tower.

    Game, Monument Valley, 2014 video game on tablet (ipad 4th gen or later tk). Courtesy of ustwo Games.

  • A woman walking the runway wearing a floor-length layered taffeta gown which has an orange to pink ombre. The bodice has cap sleeves, a peter pan collar, and pale piping. She wears sunglasses and her hair is tied up in a massive white scarf.

    Skirt And Top, from Fall / Winter 2014–15 Haute Couture collection, 2014 tulle degradé, silk taffeta. Courtesy of Giambattista Valli. 

  • Stripes of geometric wallpaper extend past the end of the wall and stretch across the floor towards the viewer. Each stripe has its own theme and motif, some deal with death, others with nature, and some with human invention.

    Wallpaper, from Archives collection, 2014 non-woven wallpaper, matte finish. Courtesy of NLXL. s-e-1736

  • Massive purple rectangles and a circle of varying translucency leaning against a white wall. A glowing ring around the edges of the circle indicates that the structure is a lamp. A white cable twists away and out of view.

    LT04 COLOUR Floor Light, 2014 powder-coated steel, laminated glass. 75.2015.1a/c

  • Fanciful creatures and shapes made up of bright and childish colors on white background. The creatures stand on two and four legs and are decorated with stripes and spots. Some of the creatures smile at you while others stick out their tongues.

    Sculptures, from the Afreaks series, 2015 glass beads, wire, wood, mixed fiber stuffing, and cast bronze. Courtesy of R & Company, New York and The Haas Brothers, Los Angeles.

  • Small black metal rings linked together form the echo of an ornate armoire, recalling the shape of an antique piece of furniture without providing all the details.

    Cabinet, from Engineering Temporality series, 2012 welded and burned steel rings. Courtesy of Tuomas Markunpoika.

  • A woman wears a white slip dress is seated in a chair. Her face is obscured by a delicately twisting headdress. The garment comes down over her face and is made up of translucent material. Soft spikes protrude from every inch, akin to a caterpillar, creating the illusion of fur.

    Atmospheric Reentry, from Atmospheric Reentry collection, 2013–2014 acetate, acrylic, silver, plastic. Courtesy of Maiko Takeda.


    From the iPhone to the Tesla Model S, beauty and technology often go hand-inhand in Silicon Valley. Here, the aesthetic appeal of great design is a strategic imperative: an object’s “look and feel” provides a leading, competitive edge and can be as spectacular as the function within. Today, in fact, there are more digital and tech-product designers working in the San Francisco Bay Area than anywhere else in the world. We are an important hub of design thinking for the twenty-first century.

    Amidst this widespread public interest in the new frontiers of design, the San Jose Museum of Art will present the exhibition Beauty—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial. The exhibition comprises 280 works by fifty-seven international, cutting-edge designers from twenty-seven countries, including Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, Iran, Italy, Mexico, The Netherlands, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, and the United States.

    Projects range from experimental prototypes and interactive games to high-tech fashion and architecture made possible by new material technologies; from forms enabled by advanced digital systems to fantastical creatures imagined and handmade by a cottage industry of South African beadworkers. Imagine, for example, a couture jacket that turns color based on the air temperature. Across the board, this exhibition is about beauty—and its uplifting, surprising, and inspiring impact on our lives. This exhibition lets visitors experience the delight of unfettered creativity that is simultaneously functional and smart, yet equally human, elegant, and witty.

    What comes to mind when you hear the word “beauty?” The designers in Beauty answer this question in myriad ways. Simon Haas of the Haas Brothers says, “It is like finding a pattern among chaos.” The designer Hechizoo offers, “When you see beauty, you have this moment of silence, of stillness.” Fashion designer Giambattista Valli observes that, “Beauty surprises you; it can make you dizzy or erode you like an obsession.” The exhibition explores beauty through seven descriptive categories: extravagant, intricate, ethereal, transgressive, emergent, elemental, and transformative. These themes will serve as springboards to engage designers, artists, architects, engineers, and futurists (as well as the general public) in San Jose, Silicon Valley, and the Bay Area.

    The Cooper Hewitt has published a 276-page catalogue with 274 images. It includes interviews with all of the designers and a section outlining the project’s curatorial DNA, including the essay “Beauty as User Experience,” by co-curators Andrea Lipps and Ellen Lupton.

    See more at the Cooper Hewitt’s website


    Strange Beauty, San Francisco Magazine
    September 28, 2016

    Beauty is design, design beauty? Not by a long shot, San Francisco Chronicle (SFGate)
    October 14, 2016

    ‘Beauty’ surveys latest in design at San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose Mercury News
    October 18, 2016

    Advisory Committee
    Verda Alexander
    Studio O + A, San Francisco

    Yves Béhar
    fuseproject, San Francisco

    Cari Borja
    the art of gathering, Oakland

    Amy Critchett
    Art + Audience, San Francisco

    John Danzer
    Munder Skiles, Los Angeles and New York

    Connie Hwang
    San Jose State University, Design Department

    Brooke Hodge
    Palm Springs Museum
    Pamela Hornik
    Palo Alto

    Jane Metcalfe
    San Francisco

    Jennifer Morla
    Morla Design, San Francisco

    Chris and Ben Ospital
    Modern Appealing Clothing (MAC), San Francisco

    Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee

    Louis Schump
    Rapt Studio, San Francisco

    Host Committee
    Elaine Cardinale
    Casey and Jack Carsten
    Jacquie and William Faulkner
    Tad Freese and Brook Hartzell
    Muni Fry
    David and Pamela Hornik
    Richard A. Karp and Sarah Roberts
    Siobhan Kenney
    Julie Lata
    Sho-Joung Kim-Wechsler
    Jim McManis and Sara Wigh
    Alyce and Michael Parsons
    Theres and Dennis Rohan
    Dorothy Saxe

    Beauty—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial was organized by Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.
    The presentation of Beauty at the San Jose Museum of Art is sponsored by
    Richard A. Karp Charitable Foundation

    Applied Materials Foundation

    Walter and Karla Goldschmidt Foundation
    Additional sponsorship support is provided by
    Casey and Jack Carsten

    Tad and Jackson Freese

    Muni Fry

    David and Pamela Hornik
    Sho-Joung Kim-Wechsler


    Alyce and Michael Parsons/Universal Style International

    Theres and Dennis Rohan
    In-kind sponsorship is provided by

    Samsung Electronics America
    Sprout Pro by HP

    Troxell Communications, Inc.