Creativity and Entrepreneurialism: Redesigning the Metropolitan Museum’s British Galleries

Daniëlle Kisluk-Grosheide, Henry R. Kravis Curator, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Robin Standefer, Co-Founder, Roman and Williams
Stephen Alesch, Co-Founder, Roman and Williams

WHERE? The Lecture Theatre

WHEN? Thursday 27 June 2019

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2020 will mark the 150th anniversary of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The celebration of this milestone will begin with the re-opening, in February, of the museum’s new British Galleries, which will provide a fresh perspective on British decorative arts, focusing on its bold, entrepreneurial spirit and complex history. The Museum is collaborating with the award-winning New York-based design firm of Roman and Williams, to create a narrative-rich setting that befits The Met’s impressive collection. The conversation between Daniëlle Kisluk-Grosheide, Henry R. Kravis Curator, and Robin Standefer and Stephan Alesch, principals of Roman and Williams, will revisit the design process of the galleries and the challenges in re-presenting British decorative arts to a contemporary audience.

DANIELLE KISLUK-GROSHEIDE is responsible for French decorative arts (except textiles and ceramics), Dutch silver and furniture, as well as the French period rooms. Daniëlle supervised the 2006 renovation of The Wrightsman Galleries for French Decorative Arts, and, in 2013, she was the co-curator of an exhibition at Bard Graduate Center on the origins of French decorative arts at The Met. In 2017 through 2018, she co-organized the exhibition Visitors to Versailles, 1682–1789, which was held at the Château de Versailles and at The Met. She has lectured and written extensively on various aspects of European decorative arts. She is a graduate of the Free University in Amsterdam and Leiden University.

ROMAN AND WILLIAMS BUILDINGS AND INTERIORS is a New York-based design studio known for their work on hotels, restaurants, retail spaces, homes, and product design. Founded in 2002 by principals Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch, the work of Roman and Williams employs a range of ideas, materials, objects and references – and instilled with a heightened sense of narrative; projects striving for the tension between past and future. Always at the vanguard, in every sphere their clients span a discerning range of tastemakers and organizations including Andre Balazs, Ian Schrager, Facebook, Nomad Hotels, Gwyneth Paltrow, Virgin Voyages, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Fotografiska, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Over the course of their career, they have been honored with prestigious accolades, namely: the Cooper Hewitt National Design Award, the Palladio Award for Excellence in Architecture, and WSJ 2017 Innovators Award. Roman and Williams has topped Architectural Digest’s annual “AD 100” list five consecutive times since 2012, and most recently, the firm has been recognized by the Sir John Soane’s Museum Foundation as “Visionaries” in 2018.

ROBIN STANDEFER was educated in Manhattan at the prestigious High School for Art and Design, furthering her studies at the Art Students League of New York City before continuing her fine arts education in Florence, Italy. After attending Smith and Hampshire College for intensive studies in Fine Arts and the Histories of Art and Architecture, Standefer began curating shows at galleries in New York’s SoHo Art District while continuing to develop her reputation as an artist and creative. 

Standefer possesses a penetrating insight and an unusually prescient power of cultural observation and interpretation balanced by an unerring eye and the practical understanding of color theory, historical context and the curation of objects. Following her studies she was soon hired by Martin Scorsese to work directly with him as a visual and creative consultant for several of his films which led to her 15-year career set designing and consulting for some of the most respected directors in the world. With her combined, applied academic and theoretical knowledge of the arts, architecture, and design, Robin has a commanding ability to synthesize volumes of ideas into highly relevant and elegant concepts. 

STEPHEN ALESCH is first and foremost a highly-skilled master builder, draughtsman, designer, and craftsman who is versed in many media. From a very young age, Stephen was devoted to the study of architecture and cultivated an innate feel for symmetry, proportion, balance and harmony, excelling at architectural design and rendering - skills he has honed throughout his life. 

After attending Northern Arizona University where he studied philosophy and engineering, Alesch completed a traditional ten-year Architecture Apprenticeship. This extensive apprenticeship at Venice Atelier, and other Los Angeles architectural firms, enabled him to gain traditional skills and methods that are no longer taught. 

To this day Alesch renders all of Roman and Williams’ presentation drawings by hand, providing a visual narrative that expresses the DNA for every project. His technical expertise and his skill for designing spaces at both macro and micro levels enable him to establish the direction of a job and to detail projects flawlessly, creating environments that are majestic yet still humane – an expertise evident even in the earliest days of his career. His self-taught architectural skills and disciplined field education, has set Alesch apart from his peers and has earned him prestige among some of the most distinguished institutions in the architectural and design community.