Grammy Award–winning artist curates exhibition at Smithsonian's National Design Museum


In 2011 she became the first jazz musician to win a Grammy for Best New Artist. She has collaborated with some of  biggest names in the music - Stevie Wonder, Patti Austin, Herbie Hancock, Bobby McFerrin and Prince. Now Esperanza Spalding, bassist, composer and singer, has extended her creative vision to Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, as guest curator of  the 2017 “Selects” series.  

Now on view through January 7, 2018, “Esperanza Spalding Selects” is the 15th installation in which designers, artists, architects and public figures are invited to examine and interpret the museum’s collection of more than 210,000 objects. For her presentation, Spalding has created thought-provoking juxtapositions among objects to show how material evolves into different forms as new designers adapt it for their own locales and cultural functions.

Spalding has organized 50 objects - drawings, prints, textiles, jewelry and product design—into eight groupings around themes related to evolution and transformation. The groupings include: “Evolving Perspectives on Integration,” which presents a selection of sheet music covers that show the progression of changing cultural sensitivities toward race; “Devolve to Evolve,” examining the design process behind objects such as a Japanese purse made from deconstructed wall panels from Holland that were later used to line shipping boxes; and “Evolving Beyond Functionality,” which includes a drawing by American designer and artist John De Cesare, who experimented with the traditional structure of musical scores to create a visual representation of the experience of music.


ESPERANZA SPALDING to give Design Talk OCT 2, 2017


Textile, Fan, 1985; Designed by Theo Maas ; Netherlands; 100% cotton; H x W: 548.6 x 120 cm (18 ft. x 47 1/4 in.) Repeat H x W (repeat in weft direction): (47 1/4 in. × 18 in.) COPYRIGHT: Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum



God's trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse. Written by James Weldon Johnson. Illustrated by Aaron Douglas. H x W x D (book closed): (7 7/8 × 7 7/8 in.) COPYRIGHT: Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum




“Studying the history of these objects, I’ve learned that design grows in response to the same essential forces of breaking down and building up that inform all innovation,” said Spalding. “I wanted to emphasize that the eternal process of devolution and evolution actually works in a continuous loop, with no real beginning or ending.”


(right from top to bottom)

Purse (kin-chaku) With Pendant (netsuke) And Cord Fastener (Netherlands; leather), ca. 1750; stamped, silvered, and varnished dutch leather, carved ivory, enamel and brass; H x W x D (3 1/8 in. × 4 1/8 in. × 1 in.)

Egyptian Story bangle bracelet, designed by Stefan Hemmerle. Made by Gebrüder Hemmerle. Carved pockwood, cut and polished turquoises and tsavorites, oxidized silver, white gold. H x W x D: (2 3/4 in. x 3 1/8 in. x 1 in.)

Book illustration, Les choses de Paul Poiret Vues par Georges Lepape (Items by Paul Poiret as Seen by George Lepape), Woman in a Turban, Plate 6, 1911. H x W x D (book closed) (14 3/8 × 27 3/16 × 13/16 in.) All images COPYRIGHT: Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum




A native of Portland, Ore., Spalding enlisted hometown collaborators Megan McGeorge, of the nonprofit “Piano, Push, Play,” and Robert Petty, of ZGF Architects, for a special gallery installation. Conceived as an extension of the work on view, the installation consists of deconstructed pianos, which respond to the theme of transformation.

In addition, Spalding has recorded original music for the exhibition with Argentine musician and composer Leonardo Genovese, which will play in the gallery. The four sections of music include a classic performance of sheet music from the exhibition, an improvised interpretation of the same song, a variation for bass and voice and finally, a “rerearrangement” of these recordings electronically sequenced into a new composition.

A four time Grammy winner, Spalding began studying violin and bass in her youth, attaining the role of concertmaster of the Chamber Music Society of Oregon in Portland before attending Berklee College of Music. In March 2016, she released her fifth album, Emily's D+Evolution. Co-produced by Spalding and Tony Visconti, the experimental work is accompanied by striking album imagery and vibrantly designed performances.

Spalding’s affiliation with the Smithsonian dates back to 2012, when she donated the dress she wore for her performance at President Barack Obama’s 2011 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony to the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. Later that year, she won the Smithsonian magazine’s American Ingenuity Award for Performing Arts, and in 2014, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. commissioned artist Bo Gehring to create a video portrait of her, which was presented at the museum in 2015.



Esperanza Spalding - On The Sunny Side Of The Street LIVE

In case you missed it! Esperanza performed at the White House in 2016, in honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Endowment for the Arts.







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