Alexandra Cunningham Cameron

Maryanna Estomba

Get to know this trailblazing design curator and Design Miami/ alumna

Diversity has been woefully absent in the design world. But Alexandra Cunningham Cameron is determined to change that. A trailblazer herself in a historically male-dominated industry, Alexandra is the curator of contemporary design and Hintz Secretarial Scholar at Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum. 

Formerly the Creative Director of the Design Miami/ fairs, she has organized a broad range of exhibitions, publications, and programs. Her work has appeared in a slew of publications, including the New York Times, Financial Times, Vogue, Architectural Digest, and New Yorker. She edited Willi Smith: Street Couture, the first book dedicated to the late black fashion designer Willi Smith (1948-1987), whose affordable collections and extensive artistic collaborations united fashion with the wider American culture. The accompanying Willi Smith: Street Couture exhibition is on view now at the Cooper Hewitt.

Here, Alexandra shares some of her favorite Design Miami/ moments and discoveries along with what she hopes to see more of in design, schools, and museums.

Willi and Toukie Smith, 1978. Photo © Anthony Barboza

Currently on your mind: 

The lack of diversity across design industries.

 What’s on your desk right now? 

A pile of books!

What sparked your interest in design? 

Miami’s Pink House designed by Laurinda Spear and Rem Koolhaas.

Miami’s Pink House designed by Laurinda Spear and Rem Koolhaas. Photo © Arquitectonica

Tell us about the early days of Design Miami/: 

We were a company of young women who communicated with international design galleries via fax machine.

Best discovery you’ve made at Design Miami/: 

Hard to choose just one, but I continue to be inspired by the work of Coral Morphologic.

Film Still from Miami-based studio Coral Morphologic. Photo © Coral Morphologic

The one design reference book everyone should have on their bookshelf:

Race and Modern Architecture: A Critical History from the Enlightenment to the Present (Culture Politics & the Built Environment), edited by Irene Cheng, Charles L David II, and Mabel O. Wilson.

What five objects should be in a design museum in the year 2120? 

The refugee nation flag, Christien Meindertsma's Pig 05049, Theaster Gates’s Plate Convergences, and a body-worn camera designed for law enforcement.

The flag of the Refugee Nation was designed by the artist Yara Said, a Syrian refugee who found asylum in Amsterdam. Photo © Refugee Nation

If you were new to collecting design, where would you start? 

I would start in flea markets to train my eye and build confidence asking questions about unusual objects.

Something you would like to see more of in the design world:

Early design education in public schools.

 If you could visit any designer historic or contemporary in their studio, who would you choose and why?

After seeing Zoe Ryan’s Art Institute of Chicago exhibition In a Cloud, In a Wall, In a Chair: Six Modernists in Mexico at Midcentury, I’ve been dreaming of Cuban-born designer Clara Porset’s México City studio circa 1950s—a crossroads for artists like Ruth Asawa, Anni Albers, and Lola Álvarez Bravo.

Best piece of advice you’ve ever received:

Don’t sweat the small stuff.