Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum is pleased to announce the appointment of new curatorial staff. Alexandra Cunningham Cameron has been named as the Edward and Helen Hintz Secretarial Scholar, serving as curator of contemporary design, effective Sept. 20. Yao-Fen You will serve as senior curator and head of the Product Design and Decorative Arts department, beginning January 2019.
“I am enormously pleased to welcome Alexandra and Yao-Fen to Cooper Hewitt,” said Caroline Baumann, director of Cooper Hewitt. “These two accomplished curators with an international vision for design will help us reach the largest and most diverse audiences possible on a global scale. Alexandra has an outstanding reputation as a writer, curator and critical thinker on contemporary design. We are grateful to our trustee Helen Hintz and her husband, Edward, for their support in what will be a hugely impactful position for Cooper Hewitt. Yao-Fen’s impressive scholarship, innovative curatorial work and truly remarkable depth of knowledge make her the ideal leader of Cooper Hewitt’s Product Design and Decorative Arts department, now entering its second century of influence.”
Upon her appointment, Cameron commented, “At its heart, design responds to the question: how do we live? In the fullness of our history and the anticipation of our future, Cooper Hewitt reflects our nation’s porous and endlessly creative approaches to that very question. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to be a part of asking it, and the vital dialogue that it forecasts.”
“I am honored and delighted to be joining Cooper Hewitt,” said You. “Recent exhibitions and programming demonstrate the museum’s commitment to innovative and immersive visitor experiences and I am excited to be part of this critical work of making museums more inclusive through the lens of design. I also can’t wait to dive in to the remarkable holdings of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century decorative arts under the care of the Product Design and Decorative Arts department, which comprises nearly 33,000 objects, and help make them accessible, relevant and exciting for all audiences today.”
ALEXANDRA CUNNINGHAM CAMERON, CURATOR OF CONTEMPORARY DESIGN AND EDWARD AND HELEN HINTZ SECRETARIAL SCHOLAR
In this new position, supported by Cooper Hewitt trustee Helen Hintz and her husband, Edward, Cameron conceives and develops contemporary design exhibitions and commissions, as well as acquires objects for the museum’s permanent collection.
An internationally-recognized design editor and curator, Cameron most recently served as the editor-in-chief of the Miami Rail, the sister publication of the Brooklyn Rail. Cameron’s tenure at the paper saw both its successful rebranding and redesign, as well as its editorial expansion. As an independent curator, Cameron has organized public and corporate commissions and institutional exhibitions, including Actual Infinity (2018), artist Jamilah Sabur’s first public commission; Nuage (2017), the first civic project by the design team of brothers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec; the award-winning kinetic installation Speed of Light (2016) by Philippe Malouin, which ran the length of a pedestrian street in the Miami Design District; Meeting the Clouds Halfway (2016), at Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson, an exhibition of baskets and experimental architecture by Aranda\Lasch and Terrol Dew Johnson connecting Native American craft traditions with computational design; and, Free Play (2017), at Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara, an exhibition examining the pursuit of pleasure in contemporary design.
From 2007, Cameron played a key role in building the reputation of the globally-recognized forum for design, Design Miami/, through spearheading landmark commissions by such designers and architects as Vito Acconci, Yves Behar, formlessfinder, Krijn de Koning, Muller van Severen, SHoP, Snarkitecture, Judith Seng and Jamie Zigelbaum, as well as formulating and advancing inventive cross-disciplinary programs with such collaborators as Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, the United Nations and Thom Browne. Cameron holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Florida and a master’s degree in literature from Florida International University.
Yao-Fen You, senior curator and head of the Product Design and Decorative Arts DEPARTMENT
As senior curator and head of the Product Design and Decorative Arts department, You will organize national and international exhibitions, publications and education programs, as well as oversee the development of the department’s collection. International in scope, the department contains a comprehensive ceramics collection, most notably European porcelain and earthenware, furniture, metalwork, lighting, glass, jewelry, models, architectural elements and industrial design.
You joins the Cooper Hewitt following 10 years at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), where she was responsible for the research, display, interpretation, acquisition and publication of the museum’s holdings in European arms and armor, silver, stained glass, textiles, porcelain (British, Chinese Export and German) and sculpture (Netherlandish, Spanish and German) in her capacity as associate curator of European sculpture and decorative arts. Her exhibition credits include “Bitter | Sweet: Coffee, Tea & Chocolate” (2016), the DIA’s first exhibition to engage all the senses; “Fabergé: The Rise and Fall, The Collection of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts” (2012); and “Designed for Convenience: Tableware from the DIA” (2011). During her tenure, she also made significant acquisitions for the collections across a range of media and helped increase access to the collections by partnering with online databases such as the Gothic Ivories Project, the Index of Christian Art and, most recently, the Rembrandt Database.
From 2004 to 2007, You served as the Theodore Rousseau Post- Doctoral Fellow in European Paintings at the Fogg Art Museum/Harvard Art Museums, where she co-curated “Objects for a Kunstkammer: Early European Collecting, 1550–1700.” She has also held curatorial positions at the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) in Ann Arbor and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
A frequent author and invited speaker, You has lectured and participated in symposia and panels nationally and internationally. Her published scholarship reflects her diverse expertise in polychrome sculpture, the history of collecting and art markets, the art of dining, early modern textiles and fashion and Northern European decorative arts. She is committed to collections documentation and researching ownership histories, and was selected to participate in the 2018 German/American Provenance Research Exchange Program (PREP) for Museum Professionals.
You holds a PhD and master’s degree in the history of art from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and a bachelor’s degree in the history of art from the University of California, Berkeley. She is a 2007 graduate of the Attingham Summer School. Additionally, she serves on committees for the Association of Art Museum Curators (AAMC) and Curators of Dutch and Flemish Art (CODART) and has served on the board of the Historians of Netherlandish Art (HNA).
ABOUT COOPER HEWITT, SMITHSONIAN DESIGN MUSEUM
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 210,000 objects that range from an ancient Egyptian faience cup dating to about 1100 BCE 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. Cooper Hewitt knits digital into experiences to enhance ideas, extend reach beyond museum walls, and enable greater access, personalization, experimentation and connection. In 2018, the London Design Biennale awarded a medal to Cooper Hewitt for its presentation “Face Values,” an immersive installation that explores the pervasive but often hidden role of facial-detection technology in contemporary society.
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IMAGES: Photo of Alexandra Cunningham Cameron by Josep Fonti. Photo of Yao-Fen You by Patrick Lenaghan.