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.