In the Mix

5 Questions with Maria Cristina Didero

Design Miami

A sit down with Design Miami’s new Curatorial Director

Today, we are thrilled to announce that Maria Cristina Didero has taken on the role of Curatorial Director for Design Miami/, and will curate the fairs 2022 flagship Basel and Miami events. Didero is an internationally lauded, Milan-based curator known for working at the leading edge of the design conversation—producing projects at revered institutions around the globe with the likes of Nendo, Objects of Common Interest, Philippe Malouin, Carlo Massoud, Erez Nevi Pana, Jorge Penades, Snarkitecture, and many others. She is also a longtime Design Miami/ collaborator, as well as a highly respected author and editor, and currently serves as the Milan Editor for Wallpaper* Magazine.

Zieta Bazair exhibition at Cardi Black Box, featuring the ultra lightweight aluminum Plopp stool by Oskar Zięta, curated by Maria Cristina Didero and Art at Work in Milan in 2011. Photo courtesy of Cardi Black Box

The sought-after Italian talent takes up the position following outgoing Curatorial Director Wava Carpenter’s successful tenure. Carpenter and partner Anna Carnick, who together founded the socially minded creative agency Anava Projects, will continue to oversee Design Miami/’s editorial and philanthropic efforts.

In honor of this exciting moment, we sat down with Didero to get her thoughts on the year ahead and her mindset as she embraces her new role. 

Fun House by Snarkitecture at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. (2018); curated by Didero. Photo © National Building Museum

Tell us about your goals for the coming year.

This year will be so exciting. It looks like the world has started to spin again and people are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel—although of course these unprecedented times continue to leave a strong mark on our society. It feels to me like there’s a positive inclination towards a new normality, and its “new rituals” are slowly appearing in our everyday lives.

Design as a creative engine and unique force of change is involved of course, and plays a crucial role in shaping this future. Both personally and professionally, it will be important to be open to change, and to live a more sustainable life, to embrace some of the habits we experimented with during the pandemic, and to learn from them: Would you want to get on a long haul flight just for a meeting, or would you rather perform it in video-conference?

Erez Nevi Pana's Salts series utilizes Dead Sea salt to create experimental objects. Didero has collaborated with the pioneering vegan designer on multiple projects, including Vegan Design - The Art Of Reduction exhibition, during Milan Design Week 2018, produced by 5VIE. Photo courtesy of 5 Vie

What are you most looking forward to in this new position?

I am thrilled to bring my vision to Design Miami/, the most relevant platform for design creativity—a position it maintains thanks in large part to the amazing personalities who covered this role before me. I am excited to challenge my ideas and to share them with the fair’s incredible audience. Design is about people and life, and I look forward to investigating new narratives about humanity via exceptional objects.

Saluti da Rimini, a campaign in which Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari transform the famous seaside destination into a special edition of their art publication,TOILETPAPER (2015); curated by Didero. Image courtesy of Maurizio Cattelan + Pierpaolo Ferrari / TOILETPAPER

Virtual room created by Objects of Common interest for the digital exhibition platform Perfettooo! (a play on the Italian word for perfect), launched by Didero and longtime collaborator Annalisa Rosso, together with Francesco Mainardi (Mr. Lawrence) in 2021. Image courtesy of Perfettooo!

What’s your curatorial approach, broadly speaking, for choosing thematics?

I’ve always been focused on people more than on objects. I often say, “Design is about people, not about chairs.” I do believe also that objects can speak—and sometimes they can also speak loudly (as is the case, for example, with my beloved Italian radical design).  But I’m perhaps most interested in discovering the stories that come before the object is even there, how it has been conceived, for what reason, why in such a specific shape, etc. I also like the idea of possibly touching the greatest matters of our life, such as religion, war, environment, and society through stories that are concretized in pieces.

The Fish and The Crowd by Carlo Massoud at the Oratorio della Passione church for Milan Design Week 2019, curated by Didero and produced by 5VIE. Photo courtesy of Maria Cristina Didero and Carlo Massoud

How do you see the role of design in this pivotal moment in the world?

Design is inventive, ingenious, resourceful, inspirational, a force that fights against mediocrity. There are infinite fields in which design plays a critical role: even the way you conduct a meeting with ten people is guided by what the leader has designed in his mind. Most of all, design teaches us to look at things differently, to discover new perspectives and points of views, driving the change.

Atelier Biagetti's Body Building exhibition during Milan Design Week 2015, curated by Didero. The show reflected on society's obsession with beauty, fitness, and perfection. Photo courtesy of Atelier Biagetti
Nendo: The Space in Between exhibition (2016); curated by Didero. Photo © Design Museum Holon

Who or what in the creative world is most exciting you at the moment?

I’m optimistic and positive at the moment, and I do feel this need to resurrect and react is broadly present; it doesn’t luckily only belong to the creative world. Human beings can be really evil, as history has shown us, but they are also capable of great gestures that can bring progress and brightness. From inventors to artists, from artisans to philosophers, humanity has shown a great deal of capability during the centuries. It is only a matter of recognizing this power and using it for the best.♦


The 18th edition of Design Miami/ is open to the public November 30-December 4, 2022. Preview Days, by invitation only, are on November 29th and 30. Purchase your tickets here.