Willi Smith Exhibition

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum

poster for Willi Smith Exhibition

This event has ended.

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum will present the first museum exhibition of American designer Willi Smith (1948–1987). “Willi Smith: Street Couture” will feature key works by this pioneer of streetwear fashion who founded the iconic brand WilliWear with partner Laurie Mallet in 1976 and leveraged innovative partnerships with artists, designers and performers to break down social, cultural and economic boundaries. The exhibition will include more than 200 works by Smith and collaborators such as Juan Downey, Dan Friedman, Keith Haring, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, Les Levine, Dianne McIntyre, Nam June Paik and SITE, many of which have not been seen in more than 30 years.

“Street Couture” takes its name from Smith’s most iconic collection, which was presented in 1983 as the first event in which he brought fashion, art and music together to present his work. The exhibition’s selection of photography, video, design drawings, garments, patterns and ephemera will position Smith as a groundbreaking designer and cultural producer who laid new roads for fashion before dying suddenly of AIDS-related complications at age 39.

“Willi Smith cared about ‘style over status,’” said Alexandra Cunningham Cameron, curator of contemporary design and Hintz Secretarial Scholar at Cooper Hewitt. “Clothing was simply a tool for him to disseminate ideas about personal freedoms beyond class, beyond gender, beyond race, while still having fun. He shows us that true collaboration, and the inclusivity it requires, is not a marketing gimmick or token gesture, but a way of thinking, of making and of life.”

“Willi Smith: Street Couture” is organized by Cunningham Cameron, along with curatorial assistants Darnell-Jamal Lisby and Julie Pastor.

The exhibition will be designed by James Wines, National Design Award winner and founder of SITE, architects of WilliWear’s 1982 New York showroom and subsequent boutiques, which brought the street indoors. Communication design studio Poly-mode has created the graphic identity for the exhibition and publication, continuing the spirit of collaboration that Smith proudly championed.



from March 13, 2020 to October 24, 2021


Willi Smith

  • Facebook


    All content on this site is © their respective owner(s).
    New York Art Beat (2008) - About - Contact - Privacy - Terms of Use