Design by Transformation: Inventiveness and Cultural Persistence in Spanish America

Join Cooper Hewitt for this special program in the Morse Historic Design Lecture Series, which examines design and decorative arts from the Renaissance to the present.

Celebrating the exhibition Foreign Exchange: 18th-Century Design on the Move, this lecture will examine the historical context that gave rise to the unique material culture of Spanish America during the colonial age (1500–1830). Dr. Jorge F. Rivas Pérez will highlight the originality, ingenuity, and visual traditions of local artists. He will explore how they contributed to the development of a new cross-cultural world after the profound processes of readjustment and transformation ensued from the conquest and colonization of the Americas.

Among the works he will consider from Cooper Hewitt’s collection, include a Comb Case with Wigs and Lice Combs from 1671; an 18th-century Armchair, which is currently on view in Foreign Exchange; a 19th-century Peineta (Comb); an Incense Burner from 1823; and a 17th-century Casket, as well as objects from other American museums.


6:00 p.m. Reception & Exhibition Viewing of Foreign Exchange: 18th-Century Design on the Move
6:30 p.m. Lecture

About the Speaker

Jorge F. Rivas Pérez, Ph.D.
Frederick and Jan Mayer Curator and department head of Latin American Art, Denver Art Museum

An art historian, architect, and designer, Jorge F. Rivas Pérez, Ph.D., is the Frederick and Jan Mayer Curator of Spanish Colonial Art and department head at the Denver Art Museum. He previously served as the curator of Spanish colonial art at the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros in Venezuela, and as the associate curator of Latin American art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He is the Latin American art editor and organizer of the Mayer Center Symposium program and publications and has curated exhibitions and contributed essays to publications on a wide range of Latin American art, architecture, design, and material culture topics. He was born in Caracas, Venezuela, received his architecture degree from Universidad Central de Venezuela, master’s degree from the University of Florence, Italy, and his master of philosophy and Ph.D. from the Bard Graduate Center in New York City.


  • Location: The program will take place in Cooper Hewitt’s Lecture Room with theater-style seating available. The Lecture Room is fully wheelchair accessible, and there is an accessible restroom on the same floor. There will be an option to watch the lecture virtually on Cooper Hewitt’s YouTube channel.
  • What to Expect: This program will feature a lecture with a slideshow presentation followed by an audience Q&A. Prior to the lecture, in-person attendees can view Foreign Exchange: 18th-Century Design on the Move and enjoy a reception with refreshments, including wine, beer, and non-alcoholic beverages. In-person tickets are required. Virtual tickets are encouraged. The program will be recorded and available on Cooper Hewitt’s YouTube channel.
  • Accommodations: The program includes live CART captioning.
  • For general questions, including submitting a question for our speakers, or if we can provide additional accessibility services or accommodations to support your participation in this program, please email us at or let us know when registering. Please make your accommodation request as far in advance as possible—preferably at least one week before the program date when possible.

Health & Safety Measures

Please visit Cooper Hewitt’s Plan Your Visit page for up-to-date information on health and safety guidelines.

Special Thanks

The Enid and Lester Morse Historic Design Lecture Series is made possible by the generous support of Mr. and Mrs. Lester S. Morse, Jr.