Woman smiling in black dress, white blazer, and glasses stands in front of stairwell.
Under Secretary for Museums and Culture

Maria Nicanor

Director, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

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

Previously, Nicanor had been the executive director of Rice Design Alliance, the public programs and outreach arm of the Rice School of Architecture at Rice University in Houston. She was also the inaugural director of the Norman Foster Foundation in Madrid and a curator at the Design, Architecture and Digital Department of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

Before that, Nicanor had spent most of her career at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, where she held several positions, including associate curator of architecture and urbanism and co-curator of the BMW Guggenheim Lab project. During her last years at the Guggenheim, Nicanor was also 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.

# # #