Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York, N.Y. Photo: Smithsonian
—NEW ACQUISITIONS BOLSTER DIVERSITY OF PERMANENT COLLECTION, RESPOND TO CURRENT ISSUES AND STRENGTHEN KEY AREAS—
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum has announced the addition of several important works to the permanent collection. The museum holds one of the world’s most diverse design collections—over 215,000 objects that span 30 centuries. Among the current collecting priorities are to add born-digital and sustainability-minded works; bolster the diversity of designers represented; and acquire major historical pieces.
In addition to furniture, metalwork, glass, ceramics, jewelry, woodwork, born-digital work, textiles and wallcoverings, Cooper Hewitt has one of the most significant collections of drawings and prints in the United States. Since its founding, the mission of the collection has been to highlight history, innovation, process, technique, use, aesthetics and social context.
The following works were acquired through the Responsive Collecting Initiative, which was launched in September 2020 as a collaborative mechanism for the museum to work with staff across departments to solicit, review and ultimately add objects to the permanent collection that tell design stories about the current moment, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the movements for racial and social justice, the 2020 election and the climate crisis.
Naomi Osaka Face Masks
During the 2020 U.S. Open, the professional tennis player Naomi Osaka sported a different black face mask for each of her seven matches at the annual tournament. Each mask was emblazoned with the name of a Black person who had died at the hands of police: Ahmaud Arbery, Philando Castile, George Floyd, Elijah McClain, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Breonna Taylor.
Black Lives Matter/Defund the Police Poster
The Black Lives Matter/Defund the Police digital poster by Ernesto Yerena Montejano and Nancy Mbabazi Musinguzi marks the historical moment in 2020 when the movements for racial and social justice intersected with a global pandemic. Demonstrators carried both handmade and printed posters, and graphics were shared and freely circulated in digital spaces to show support for the movement. This digital poster was created in response to a request by BLD PWR, a Los-Angeles-based activism nonprofit, to design a poster in solidarity.
Coronavirus Medical Illustration
The coronavirus medical illustration was created in early 2020 by medical illustrators Alissa Eckert and Dan Higgins at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Eckert and Higgins sought to make the illustration visually impactful and to impart the virus’ seriousness. The illustration of a gray virus particle, pierced with red, triangular spikes, quickly became the iconic image of an invisible threat that would cause a global pandemic.
Vue Face Shield by Joe Doucet
Designed by Joe Doucet, winner of the 2017 National Design Award for Product Design, the Vue Face Shield’s frame is modeled on eyeglass frames, resting on the nose and ear. The oval shape curves back to cover the entire face, offering a wide area of protection, unobstructed views and ample room for a mask or eyeglasses. The shield is made of clear, light polyethylene terephthalate (PET), treated with anti-fog and UV coatings, and a blue light-blocking coating for workers using electronic screens.
Climate Crisis Font
The Climate Crisis font, created by type designers Eino Korkala and Daniel Coull for Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat and advertising agency TBWA/Helsinki, is an open-source typeface that deploys variable font technology to visualize the urgency of the climate crisis. The typeface maps sea ice data from 1979 to 2050 onto the weight of the font, which appears to melt as the years advance. The design is both a typeface and a data visualization, showing the gradual but catastrophic process of climate change on ice melt.
The following works were added to the collection through the American Women’s History Initiative Acquisitions Pool, administered by the Smithsonian’s American Women’s History Initiative:
Greta Magnusson Grossman Furniture and Lighting
Swedish-born American architect and designer Greta Magnusson Grossman was pivotal in shaping the visual vocabulary and tenets of California midcentury modern design. These five new acquisitions—three lamps, a cocktail table and a buffet—dating from circa 1945 to 1952, represent a range of Grossman’s industrial design and demonstrate a cross-section of the manufacturers with whom she collaborated.
Savage Series Chair by Jay Sae Jung Oh
Cooper Hewitt commissioned Jay Sae Jung Oh to create a chair for its collection from the designer’s Savage Series, which is composed of found household objects and discarded everyday items that have been meticulously bound together and laboriously hand-wrapped in jute or leather cord—a process that can take five to seven weeks to create a finished work. Oh considers the final product to articulate a type of self-portrait, reflecting her state of mind, experiences and environment through the objects she intuitively collects and assembles over a specific period of time. The series also comment on the cultural condition of abundance and obsolescence—repurposing castoff objects into a valued sculptural work. Oh’s chair for Cooper Hewitt was constructed of objects obtained during the pandemic and is the first work to come out of the designer’s studio after the 2020 lockdown.
Cadastral Shaking (Chicago v1) by Amanda Williams
Amanda Williams’ Cadastral Shaking (Chicago v1), made in collaboration with members of the Chicago printmaking community at Spudnik Press Co-Operative, reimagines a 1930s Federal Housing Authority Map, “shaking up” redlined zones that have segregated and oppressed Black communities for generations. The work speculates on how cities might be structured had chance, rather than bias, factored into their design. Williams’ work explores the intersection of race, color and urbanism.
Following the recent Cooper Hewitt exhibition “Willi Smith: Street Couture,” the museum has acquired a series of works by designer Willi Smith and commissions organized by Smith and his business partner Laurie Mallet for WilliWear. The following works were donated by Mark Bozek:
Pont Neuf Wrapped Uniform
The Pont Neuf Wrapped Uniform, designed in 1985, demonstrates Smith’s interest in merging art, fashion and utility. Conceived by Smith to unify workers on Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s 1985 The Pont Neuf Wrapped art installation in Paris, the uniform features a rendering of Paris’ Pont Neuf Bridge on the back of a loose-fitting, long-sleeve, sky-blue cotton, button-up shirt, with matching wide-leg trousers that reference an artist’s smock, French worker jacket and hospital scrub suit.
Smith’s Sketch Book, circa 1985, contains the designer’s reference material, design drawings and textile samples. The book illustrates Smith’s broad range of influences from visual and performing arts, fashion and design; his interest in global cultures; and attention to avant-garde, standardized and traditional modes of dress.
Expedition Press Folder and Invitation
The Expedition press folder and invitation was used to promote the narrative fashion film “Expedition,” filmed in Senegal, and produced by WilliWear as a new way to display the spring 1986 collection. Graphic designer Steve Orant emblazoned a black-and-white Dan mask on the cover of the collection’s press folder, which familiarly played on the WilliWear graphic identity, and referred to an object from Smith’s collection of African art. The package incorporates a remixed Malian bògòlanfini print with smiling faces used on garments across the collection, and a commissioned portrait of Smith by caricature artist Robert Risko that Smith used on his personal stationery.
A major collection of 61 architectural illustrations of the World Trade Center by Carlos Diniz was given by Mark Cuban on the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11:
World Trade Center Drawings by Carlos Diniz
One of the foremost architectural delineators of the 20th century, Diniz served as the project recording artist for the World Trade Center commission, hired by Minoru Yamasaki. He was tasked with doing sketches that would help situate the buildings in Lower Manhattan, and highlight the project at scale with its surroundings. Diniz’s illustrations, dating from the 1960s, showcase the World Trade Center as an idealistic place where people of all ethnicities and walks of life come together. In the early years of the project, Diniz’s line sketches were shown to Port Authority developers. He then developed large-format line drawings that showcased how the World Trade Center’s major public spaces would be developed.
The Institute for Studies on Latin American Art (ISLAA) gifted 24 posters by Edgardo Giménez, showcasing his influential contribution to 20th-century graphic design in Argentina and Latin America at large:
One of Argentina’s most dynamic and prolific artists, Giménez has worked across a wide array of media, producing paintings, sculptures, posters, product design, film and theatrical sets, fashion and architectural structures. The selection of posters represents a range of techniques, aesthetic sensibilities and cultural events, which bear witness to the experimental and counterculture movements that transpired in Buenos Aires. The posters speak to how international trends such as pop, psychedelia, new abstraction, kinetic art and post-modernism circulated in the region, and reveal how Giménez interpreted these styles to produce a new communication language that appealed and even shocked Argentine society.
A recent gift of glassware of various sizes, forms and function from the collection of Beatrice Taplin constitutes a representative collection of 18th-century Dutch stippled and engraved glass of the highest quality:
18th-Century Dutch Glassware
Ranging from ceremonial wine glasses and goblets celebrating friendship, marriage and freedom to birth and confinement cups, these made-to-order glasses were used during festive gatherings by well-to-do families, boards and associations. While diamond-point engraving—a technique of decorating glass by marking the surface with a diamond—was popularized by the Venetians in the 16th century, it was carried to some of its greatest artistic heights in the Netherlands during the 17th and 18th centuries.
ABOUT COOPER HEWITT
Cooper Hewitt is America’s design museum. Inclusive, innovative and experimental, the museum’s dynamic exhibitions, education programs, master’s program, publications and online resources inspire, educate and empower people through design. An integral part of the Smithsonian Institution—the world’s largest museum, education and research complex—Cooper Hewitt is located on New York City’s Museum Mile in the historic, landmark Carnegie Mansion. Steward of one of the world’s most diverse and comprehensive design collections—over 215,000 objects that range from an ancient Egyptian faience cup dating to about 1100 BC to contemporary 3D-printed objects and digital code—Cooper Hewitt welcomes everyone to discover the importance of design and its power to change the world.