Paola Antonelli joined The Museum of Modern Art in 1994 and is the museum’s Senior Curator in the Department of Architecture & Design, as well as MoMA’s founding Director of Research & Development. Her work investigates design in all its forms, from architecture to video games, often expanding its reach to include overlooked objects and practices. Her exhibitions, lectures, and writings contemplate design’s intersection and interaction with other fields (from technology and biology to popular culture) and with life – that of individuals, communities, all species, and all planets’. Her goal is to promote design’s understanding until its positive influence on the world is universally acknowledged.
A pasionaria of design, Antonelli has been named one of the 25 most incisive design visionaries in the world by TIME magazine. Because of her role in celebrating the work of designers from all backgrounds and regions of the planet, she has earned the “Design Mind” Smithsonian Institution’s National Design Award, has been inducted in the US Art Directors Club Hall of Fame, and has received the AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Artists,) the London Design Medal, and the German Design Award, among other accolades.
She has curated numerous shows at The Museum of Modern Art and in other international institutions, lectured worldwide, written copious stories, essays, and books, and has served on several international architecture and design juries. Critic Steven Heller said about her: “the prolific author and prodigious researcher expands the conventional boundaries of design study and practice. Her exhibits continually challenge accepted norms and trigger untold imaginations.”
The recipient of a Master’s degree in Architecture from the Polytechnic of Milan, Antonelli holds Honorary Doctorate degrees from the Royal College of Art and from Kingston University, London, the Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, and Pratt Institute in New York. She has taught at the University of California, Los Angeles; the Harvard Graduate School of Design; and the MFA programs of the School of Visual Arts in New York.
Following the XXII Triennale di Milano – her 2019 Broken Nature, devoted to the idea of restorative design, now open at MoMA – she has curated at MoMA the exhibition Material Ecology, on the work of architect Neri Oxman. She is currently working on several new sessions of her renowned MoMA R&D Salons (thematic gatherings demonstrating the potential of museums as R&D departments of society); a MoMA exhibition on interactive design; and on the Instagram series @design.emergency, conceived and developed with design critic Alice Rawsthorn, devoted to the role of design during and after the Covid-19 pandemic, and to design’s potential to build a better future for all – humans and non-humans.
Wallpaper* magazine (2020): “Antonelli, 57, has curated succession of landmark exhibitions since joining MoMA in 1994. The rigour and verve with which she has nurtured a new public understanding of the practice and possibilities of design has established her as the most influential design curator of our time.”
She can be found on Twitter as @CuriousOctopus, and on Instagram as @paolantonelli.