Ellen Lupton is curator of contemporary design at Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City and founding director of the Graphic Design MFA program at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore. An author of numerous books and articles on design, she is a public-minded critic, frequent lecturer, and AIGA Gold Medalist. Read More

Exhibition List


Below is a list of exhibitions curated by Ellen Lupton, 1986 to the present. Many of these projects also included a published exhibition catalog. Each exhibition is a collaborative effort involving other designers, architects, writers, curators, conservators, educators, and other museum professionals. Curating is a critical and visual practice that uses research, writing, and design to tell stories with objects and images. Design is a key component of the curatorial process.


Design for a Living World. Exhibition curated by Ellen Lupton and Abbott Miller for The Nature Conservancy. TNC commissioned ten designers to create original product prototypes using materials from ten endangered landscapes. Designers included Yve Béhar, Maya Lin, Isaac Mizrahi, Ezri Tarazi, Kate Spade New York, and Abbott Miller. On view at Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, May 2009-January 2010. Exhibition design: Abbott Miller, Brian Raby, Jeremy Hoffman, Kristen Spilman/Pentagram.

Rococo: The Continuing Curve, 1734–2008. Spring 2008. Co-curated with Sarah Coffin, Gail Davidson, and Penelope Hunter-Stiebel.

Design Life Now: National Design Triennial 2006. December 8, 2006-July 29, 2007. Co-curated with Barbara Bloemink, Brooke Hodge, and Matilda McQuaid.

Second Skin. Presented at Entry 2006, Essen, Germany, August 27–December 3, 2006.. Produced by Vitra Design Museum.

Feeding Desire: Design and the Tools of the Table, 1500–2005. May–October, 2006. The evolution of dining through the design of flatware.

Solos: New Design from Israel
. January–April 2006. Survey of experimental objects and furniture created in Israel. Curated with Ezri Tarazi.

National Design Triennial: Inside Design Now. April 2003-January 2004. Co-curated with Susan Yelavich, Donald Albrecht, and Mitchell Owens.

Skin: Surface, Substance and Design. May-September, 2002. Looks at the convergence of natural and artificial life as seen in contemporary furniture, fashion, architecture, and media.

National Design Triennial: Design Culture Now
. March-August 2000. Review of recent developments in architecture, graphic design, and product design, co-curated with Donald Albrecht and Steven Skov Holt.

Graphic Design in the Mechanical Age: Selections from the Merrill C. Berman Collection. Winter 1999. Organized in association with Williams College Museum of Art.

Mixing Messages: Graphic Design in Contemporary Culture
. Fall, 1996/Winter 1997. Critical survey of graphic design in the United States between 1980 and 1995, focusing on aesthetic, cultural, and technological changes.

The Avant-Garde Letterhead. Spring, 1996. Organized by the National Design Museum and presented at the national headquarters of the American Institute of Graphic Arts in New York. Co-curated with Elaine Lustig Cohen.

Elaine Lustig Cohen, Modern Graphic Designer. February 7 – May 23, 1995. Monographic exhibition on a designer active in the 1950s and 60s.

Living with AIDS: Education through Design
. December 1, 1993 – January 2, 1994. A national survey of contemporary AIDS posters addressed to diverse audiences, including women, children, people of color, and straight and gay men.

Mechanical Brides: Women and Machines, from Home to Office. August 1993 – January 1994. An exhibition about the design and representation of objects which have been central to women’s work in the twentieth century, including the telephone, typewriter, washing machine, and electric iron. The exhibition travelled to the Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles, Spring 1994.


Framing the Art of Jewelry. August 2007. “Exhibition in Print” for Metalsmith magazine, the publication of the Society of North American Goldsmiths. Exhibition held at SOFA/Chicago (2007) and Museum of Contemporary Crafts, Portland, OR (2008).

Swarm. December 2005–March 2006. The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Works of contemporary art and design that reflect the logic of the swarm (simple structures yielding complexity).

Comfort Zone. January-April 2002. The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Exhibition of portable fabric structures by contemporary artists and designers, responding to human needs for comfort, safety, escape, and survival.

The Process of Elimination: The Bathroom, the Kitchen, and the Aesthetics of Waste. May-August 1992. MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge. Co-curated with J. Abbott Miller. This exhibition looked at the history of the American bathroom and kitchen, 1890-1940, in relation to the rise of a consumer economy.


(selected projects)

Graphic Design in the Netherlands: A View of Recent Work. January 1992. Exhibition of posters, books, stamps, and corporate identity by emerging Dutch designers.

The Bauhaus and Design Theory, from Preschool to Post-Modernism. April 1991. Co-curated with J. Abbott Miller.

Dennis Livingston: Social Graphics. October 1990. The information graphics of a social activist.
Writing and the Body. April 1990. Curated with three design students, who examined the history of writing, sign language for the deaf, and AIDS in advertising.

Anthon Beeke’s Stage: Holland’s Illusionist Poster Designer. February 1990. Posters, magazines, and other graphics from the 1970s and 80s.

Numbers. September 1989. Co-curated with Alan Wolf, professor of physics. The culture and science of numbers.

MIT/Casey. April 1989. Work by a prominent American modernist working from the 1960s through the 80s.

Period Styles: A History of Punctuation. March 1988. A typographic, grammatical, and literary history.

Global Signage: Semiotics and the Language of International Pictures. March 1986. The history and theory of modern pictographic sign systems.