Monica Obniski

Curator of Decorative Arts and Design

Monica Obniski Headshot Square

Monica Obniski joined the High in March 2020 as Curator of Decorative Arts and Design. She is responsible for the Decorative Arts and Design department, including related exhibitions and programs, as well as its collection of more than 2,300 objects dating from the seventeenth century to the present. Obniski also leads the High’s Piazza activations, a multiyear initiative that launched in 2014 to animate the Museum’s outdoor space with site-specific commissions that engage visitors of all ages in participatory art experiences.

Previously, Obniski served as the Demmer Curator of 20th- and 21st-Century Design at the Milwaukee Art Museum. She oversaw an expanding collection of historical and contemporary design and managed an active exhibition program, including Scandinavian Design and the United States, 1890–1980, organized with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), which begins its international tour in 2021. Other notable exhibition projects include Serious Play: Design in Midcentury America (2018) with the Denver Art Museum and Jaime Hayon: Technicolor (2017–18), which originated at the High. She reinstalled the Milwaukee Art Museum’s modern and contemporary design galleries for its November 2015 reopening, with a presentation geared toward audience engagement through traditional methods and new technologies. She also stewarded important acquisitions to build the Milwaukee Art Museum’s collection.

Obniski began her career in the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, before serving as the inaugural Ann S. and Samuel M. Mencoff Assistant Curator of American Decorative Arts in the American Art department at the Art Institute of Chicago. There she collaborated on special exhibitions including Art and Appetite (2013) and Apostles of Beauty (2009), completed several gallery installations, and continued to build the collection.

As a design historian, Obniski has edited and contributed to many publications such as For Kith and Kin: The Folk Art Collection at the Art Institute of Chicago (2012), Alexander Girard: A Designer’s Universe (2016), and Currents 38: Christy Matson (2021). She lectures widely, has taught art and design history, and has received grants from the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Center for Craft, among other institutions.

Obniski earned a doctorate in art history, with specialization in architecture and design, from the University of Illinois at Chicago; a Master of Arts in history of decorative arts and design from the Bard Graduate Center; and a Bachelor of Arts from Loyola University Chicago.