Meet the Woman Who Spots Great Design for a Living

Meet the Woman Who Spots Great Design for a Living

SF MOMA curator Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher puts the world of design on display
Nicholas Pajerski
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Capturing the world of design is a tall order. It means constantly considering the now, questioning the promise of future technology, and looking across the historical register for patterns and mishaps. Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher does just that, and as the curator of Architecture and Design at SFMOMA, she goes one step further and puts it all on view. Her work asks tough questions for us and, in turn, to us. I took a moment to catch up, get a bit of background, and figure out what motivates her day to day.

In one sentence, who are you?

A hard-headed idealist, who revels in the start and finish of every project, but curses throughout the process.

What do you do? How did you learn it?

I am a curator of architecture and design. I always wanted to work in a museum, and so I studied art, architecture and curatorial history, and then worked in several galleries and museums.

3 favorite possessions?

  1. A pour over coffee maker
  2. A pair of small ink drawings of imaginary landscapes
  3. Handwritten notes tucked into my suitcase from my sons and husband

What does a typical work session look like?

A typical work session includes too many people and little is accomplished, but a productive work session includes 1-2 colleagues, an inspiring setting, and a knotty idea.

Model photo from the Bureau Spectacular Exhibit

How do you get over creative block?

Deadlines. My father always said to think of a deadline as an opportunity to submit a draft. If you are truly interested in going further you will or you may never return to a subject, but one shouldn’t think that you need to know everything at the time of a deadline. It is a moment that reflects what you do understand at that time.

How do you see the world in 2078?

More tax money is spent on public education and the arts than on the military. Society needs to value education and the arts. SFMOMA understands the value of arts in culture, in making sense of issues, as well as complicated issues. I am hopeful humanity will come to its senses on what to prioritize.

Photo from the Noguchi Playscapes Exhibit

What is the biggest challenge in curating "design"?

I’m not sure there is a singular big challenge to curating design. There are smaller challenges, such as how to exhibit interactive software or ubiquitous commercial products or representations of buildings meant to be experienced in person, etc, but no one specific challenge. Challenges make work interesting, no?!

What’s your number one bucket list item?

I don’t have a bucket list, but I understand the concept and my interests are always shifting, but this week, I’d like to be sure to experience:

  • Space travel
  • De Maria’s Lightning Fields with my family, New Mexico
  • Piamio Sanatorium, Finland
  • I am too late since it is destroyed, but would have loved to have visited the Operations Room for Project Cybersyn, Chile
Feature photo from the Designed in California Exhibit

Who are you creative crushin’ on lately?

The ladies of today—Neri Oxman, Tatiana Bilbao, Nathalie du Pasquier, but especially ladies who paved the way, Esther McCoy, Lina Bo Bardi, Barbara Stauffacher Solomon, Susan Kare, Ruth Asawa, Anna Halprin, Clara Porset, and the list continues

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Nicholas Pajerski
Nicholas is an Environments Designer, architect, and teacher. He is interested in being interested and wishes he could run and read at the same time.
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