Grammy Award-winning musician Esperanza Spalding puts her spin on the history of design at Smithsonian’s Cooper Hewitt museum in a show about transformation, the motif of her latest album, ‘Emily’s D+Evolution.’ Smithsonian magazine spoke with her about her new gig, her pop culture loves, and her thoughts on social media
Tell me about your guest-curated exhibition. How did you go about selecting and organizing objects?
I wanted to present objects through the lens of D+evolution. So in conversation with the curators on the team that they selected for me, we found themes that we knew we would be able to find in the histories of objects that express d+Evolution, this process of one structure, aesthetic, value system, methodology devolving, coming undone as it makes way for the next iteration, as it evolves. They’re from all over the place. Sometimes we’re focusing on more of a cultural d+evolution as reflected through the artist’s choices and the design. Sometimes we’re talking about manufacturing d+evolution. For example, we deconstructed pianos. We completely tore them apart and reconstructed them into some functional objects in the exhibitions like staircases.
How did your musician’s background inform your curating of the exhibition? Are the two art forms similar?
I don’t know if it helps or hurts because I never curated an exhibition before I was a musician. I have no idea.
COOPER HEWITT, SMITHSONIAN DESIGN MUSEUM | MANHATTAN, NY
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum is a design museum located in the Upper East Side’s Museum Mile in Manhattan, New York City. It is one of nineteen museums that fall under the wing of the Smithsonian Institution and is one of three Smithsonian facilities located in New York City, the other two being the George Gustav Heye Center in Bowling Green and the Archives of American Art New York Research Center in the Flatiron District. It is the only museum in the United States devoted to historical and contemporary design. Its collections and exhibitions explore approximately 240 years of design aesthetic and creativity. (Biography.com).