Issue 9

Paola Antonelli

Senior curator of the Architecture and
Design Department at
New York’s Museum of Modern Art

Photos by vincent tullo Words by Kimberly Bradley


In the scope of an outstanding career, only a few people come to define their disciplines—but also redefine those disciplines and test their potentials. In the field of design, Paola Antonelli is that rare kind of person. The senior curator of the Architecture and Design Department at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York since 1994, Antonelli has long been a smart maverick, a connector, an amplifier, explorer, and booster; spurring both the general public and the academy to think differently about what design is, but also what it could be and do.


This is not to say that design was ever easily defined—its worlds are many and, at the moment, more dynamic than ever. Design may once have meant modernist chairs, sleek household objects, avantgarde fashion, rooms that sparked the emotions of the people in them. It is still about those things, but it’s also about everything else in our lives: about representing complex data; planning households, cities, international power grids; even organizing how waste can be reused or otherwise disposed of. “It’s an interesting moment for design, because the definitions of the past are still lingering: product design, furniture design, human centered design”, says Antonelli. “In order to go forward, they need to be shed. I appreciate vagueness and ambiguity.”

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