Zoë Ryan, Curator / Inspiration = Curiosity

Zoë Ryan. Portrait by Lisa Predko

For Design Bureau‘s second anniversary issue, we asked eight guest editors a question: What inspires you? In September and October, we posted the words and images that demonstrate each of these guest ed’s creative passions. This is our feature of curator Zoë Ryan.

Zoë Ryan is the John H. Bryan Chair and Curator of Architecture and Design at the Art Institute of Chicago.

I’m very curious about people, especially those that are creative and have the capacity to produce inventive work.

Design today is less about function. It’s very much about our emotional well being, concepts and ideas, and narratives.

Tokujin Yoshioka, Honey-Pop Armchair, 2001. Image courtesy of Tokujin Yoshioka Inc.

Architects and designers help us overcome challenges and allow us to accept things in everyday life. I made that connection early on, that the spaces we live in tell us who we are and influence us.

I’m attracted to the generosity of one’s spirit in others. I work with some of the most interesting designers and architects who are very generous in their work, as well as to younger talents in the field.

Growing up, I was surrounded by creative people who were always making things and explaining the importance of art as a form of personal expression, and how those ideas related to daily life.

One of the things I love about being a curator is being able to go behind the scenes, poke around designers’ studios, and have access to their thinking and approach.

Plumen 001, Hulger and Samuel Wilkinson Design, 2010. Image courtesy of Hulger and ©Ian Nolan

If I wasn’t a curator, I’d work in period films. I love imagining places, spaces, and how society influences architecture and design.

It’s important when you do a challenging project that you love the material, and that you are convinced that the materials are rich and rewarding—that’s what keeps you going.

Bless, N. 45 Musiccurtain, 2010. © 2012 The Art Institute of Chicago

Interview by Lesley Stanley

Categories / Art Institute of Chicago, Design Bureau, Lesley Stanley, Zoë Ryan