Remembering: Ted Cohen

Remembering: Ted Cohen

Black and white candid portrait of a person in a tie sweater and leather jacket

Ted Cohen at the 2000 American Craft Council Awards ceremony. Photo by Gene Peach.

American Craft Council Honorary Fellow Ted Cohen died late last month at the age of 93. He was a prominent exhibition designer and curator based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Ted Cohen was born in Oakland, California in 1928. He attended the California College of Arts and Crafts with funding from the GI Bill, earning a BA in painting in 1952. He began working with the Oakland Art Gallery (now the Oakland Art Museum) as a preparatory and eventually advanced into the position of exhibition designer in 1959, a position he would hold for the next 27 years. At the same time, he worked as a freelance exhibition designer and consultant for institutions throughout California. He also taught exhibition design in museum studies programs at Lone Mountain College in San Francisco and John F. Kennedy University in Orinda, California.

Cohen has designed installations in museums such as the American Craft Museum (now the Museum of Arts and Design), the San Francisco Craft and Folk Art Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the International Art Exposition in Chicago, and the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. He was the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Grant in 1976 to develop an intern program at the Oakland Museum and a Fulbright Grant in 1980 to advise on exhibition design for the New Zealand-United States Educational Foundation. He was inducted in the ACC College of Fellows as an Honorary Fellow in 2000.

In recent years, Cohen had been involved in the design of nearly every exhibition at the Museum of Craft and Design, and he came out of retirement to prepare a new exhibition (opening in February 2022) related to his recent publication The Object in its Place: Ted Cohen & the Art of Exhibition Design by Signe S. Mayfield. In an article titled “The Object in its Place,” in the August/September 1999 issue of American Craft magazine, Joyce Lovelace wrote “A connoisseur’s eye, a quietly commanding presence, grace under pressure . . . [s]uch qualities have earned him a reputation as one of the country’s most respected exhibition designers, along with the affection of the San Francisco Bay Area art community, where his gift for displaying and living with art – particularly craft objects – is legendary.”

See this blog post for further reading on the work of Ted Cohen.