Maria Nicanor

Director, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum


Maria Nicanor, an architecture and design curator and historian, is director of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York. Nicanor is passionate about rethinking the traditional roles of museums and experimenting with new formats that connect cultural institutions with civic life.

Previously, she was executive director of Rice Design Alliance, the public programs and outreach arm of the Rice School of Architecture in Houston. She was the inaugural director of the Norman Foster Foundation in Madrid. From 2005 to 2013, Nicanor held positions at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, including associate curator of architecture and urbanism and co-curator of the BMW Guggenheim Lab project. At the Guggenheim, she curated and worked on several contemporary art, architecture and design exhibitions and publications, including Participatory City and Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward, among other large-scale exhibitions and projects for the New York, Bilbao and Berlin locations of the foundation. During her last years at the Guggenheim, Nicanor was part of the team leading the international architecture competition for the Guggenheim Museum in Helsinki.

Originally from Spain, she holds a bachelor’s degree in art and architectural history and theory from the Autónoma University of Madrid, which she partly completed at the Sorbonne University Paris, and a master’s degree in museum and curatorial studies from New York University.


The Power of Design

Oct 18, 2022