New York design exhibitions: collectible design and emerging talent to discover

A Wallpaper* guide to the best New York design exhibitions to visit now

Cork design objects on display at Colony, New York
Cork Collection by Grain, part of ‘Here at Colony’, at Colony Design
(Image credit: TBC)

If there was ever any doubt about the state of life in New York City, the current volume of new cultural happenings from platforms, institutions and galleries across all levels affirms that the city is indeed back and well. Fall has long been one of the busiest months in cultural terms in the Big Apple, and this year is (reassuringly) no different.

If you are pressed for time and spoilt for choice, refer to our top picks. Here are the best New York design exhibitions to see this month…

New York design exhibitions

‘Hierophany’ by Ini Archibong at Friedman Benda
7 Oct – 2 Nov 2021
515 West 26th Street, New York

A chandelier by Ini Archibong made of metal cones and colourful glass

‘Dark Vernus’ by Ini Archibong. Courtesy of Friedman Benda and Ini Archibong

(Image credit: Andreas Zimmermann, Friedman Benda and Ini Archibong)

Ini Archibong’s first solo gallery exhibition, ‘Hierophany’, is the culmination of a four-year long creative exploration between the designer and the gallery Friedman Benda, and touches on global cultures, philosophy, mythology, world religions and Archibong’s Nigerian ancestry. Comprised of four distinct bodies of work and encompassing both lighting and furniture, the show sees Archibong push the boundaries of what his chosen material – be it obsidian, hand-blown glass or marble – is able to achieve.

‘Here at Colony’ at Colony
324 Canal Street, 2nd Floor, New York

Colony design exhibition space with white sofa and black coffee table

(Image credit: TBC)

After lying low for most of the pandemic, Colony is making up for lost time with a presentation of new furniture and design collections from Grain Design, the architecture firm Workshop APD, and wallpaper designs by Flat Vernacular. Grain’s eye-catching new cork collection is a particular highlight with a series of CNC-lathed tables and a bench that pay homage to the unique tactility and durability of cork. Monolithic and yet enticing in appearance, the pieces make the most of the standard block and cylinder forms that are part of the cork production process. 

‘First Times’ at Galerie Philia
By appointment only
39 Lispenard Street, New York

Galerie Philia exhibition space with white sofas, fireplace and white chunky coffee table

Courtesy of Galerie Philia

(Image credit: Jonathan Puente, Galerie Philia)

The international art and design space Galerie Philia marks its arrival on American shores with a suitably elegant showcase of practitioners who have not previously shown with the gallery – many have not been exhibited in the United States before – together with a selection of its classic stable of established designers (Rick Owens is one). Entitled ‘First Times’ and staged within the gallery’s new Tribeca showroom, the immersive and livable installation of intercultural works also highlights Galerie Philia’s interior design prowess, which it hopes to develop under the moniker Philia Interiors with future projects.

‘Portraits’ by Mauro Mori at Les Ateliers Courbet
30 September – 4 November
134 10th Avenue, New York

Sinuous hand carved wooden stool

‘Figli di Audiface’ console by Mauro Mori

(Image credit: TBC)

The Italian artist Mauro Mori has unveiled a series of functional sculptures following a two-year collaboration with Les Ateliers Courbet’s Melanie Courbet. Presented as the artist’s third solo exhibition with the gallery, Mori’s new works include several unique tables and daybeds, which he hand-carved from Albizia Rosea wood in his Seychelles studio, and three limited-edition limestone tables that he sculpted in his Milan studio. The collection is a result of Courbet’s Gallery Editions programme, which aims at supporting today’s master artisans by creating new bodies of work as well as initiating new collaborations with contemporary artists. 

‘2021 Norway x New York’ by Sight Unseen at Matter
7 – 20 October
405 Broome Street, New York

Colourful exhibition structure in white bare space

‘Figli di Audiface’ console by Mauro Mori

(Image credit: Matthew Gordon)

For the past three years, the digital design platform Sight Unseen has fostered cross cultural relations between Norway and the US by pairing Norwegian designers with independent New York brands and studios. After having to postpone its fourth edition last year, the overdue collection is now on view and features a whole new crop of collaborations, ranging from a lamp by Vilde Hagelund for West Elm, a table by Jenkins & Uhnger for Dims, and a three-dimensional rug by Pettersen & Hein for Edward Fields.

‘Distant Symphony’ by Rooms at Emma Scully Gallery
14 October – 20 November
16 East 79th Street, New York

Black and white textile hanging object

(Image credit: TBC)

The Upper East Side gallery Emma Scully has staged the largest presentation in the United States of the Tbilisi-based design studio Rooms. Founded in 2007 by designers Nata Janberidze and Keti Toloraia, the Georgian studio continually draws from its homeland’s heritage, landscape and iconography for inspiration. ‘Distant Symphony’ brings together a selection of iconic works, including pieces that have never been exhibited outside of Georgia, such as ‘Iron Secret Cabinet’. Objects produced in collaboration with three Georgian artists – Salome Chigilashvili, Mariana Chkonia, Shotiko Aptsiauri – are also on display.

‘Jon Gray of Ghetto Gastro Selects’ at Cooper Hewitt 
On view until 13 February 2022
2 East 91 Street, New York

Red Beocom phone from 1986, with keys in teal, lilac, red and yellow

BeoCom Model 2200 Telephone, 1986, manufactured by Bang & Olufsen, Copenhagen, Denmark. Designed by Gideon Löwy (Danish, b. 1952) and Lone Lindinger-Löwy (Danish, b. 1956). Plastic, electronic components. Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, gift of Arango Design Foundation, 1994-31-122-a/c. 

(Image credit: Ellen McDermott, Gideon Löwy, Lindinger-Löwy)

For the 19th installment of the Cooper Hewitt’s ‘Selects’ series, which sees the storied institution invite designers, artists, architects and public figures to examine and interpret the museum’s collection, the museum has invited Jon Gray, co-founder of the creative collective and cooking advocacy group Ghetto Gastro, to guest curate an exhibition. With over 215,000 objects to choose from, Gray’s exhibition transports visitors to the year 2077 in an effort to prompt a rethinking, repositioning and reclaiming of object stories and identities. This concept is supported by a fictional narrative by José Mejia, compelling artwork by Oasa DuVerney and a dynamic exhibition display by Snøhetta, whom Ghetto Gastro have collaborated with before.

Pei-Ru Keh is a former US Editor at Wallpaper*. Born and raised in Singapore, she has been a New Yorker since 2013. Pei-Ru held various titles at Wallpaper* between 2007 and 2023. She reports on design, tech, art, architecture, fashion, beauty and lifestyle happenings in the United States, both in print and digitally. Pei-Ru took a key role in championing diversity and representation within Wallpaper's content pillars, actively seeking out stories that reflect a wide range of perspectives. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children, and is currently learning how to drive.