Surrealism and design on display at the Design Museum in London

Surrealism had a profound influence on the world of design. The movement, which emerged in the 1920s, not only revolutionized art, but had a significant impact on various fields ranging from decorative arts and furniture to interiors, fashion, photography and film. From October 14 and until February 19, 2023, the Design Museum in London will host the exhibition “Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924 – Today” which traces the history of surrealism and its influence on design.

The exhibition will span nearly a hundred years and is divided into four sections: Everyday Objects, Home Decor, Fashion and Body, and Spirit. Some 350 objects will be exhibited, including paintings, sculptures, photographs and clothing. The exhibition will also feature some of the world’s most famous surrealist works, such as Salvador Dali ‘s Lobster Telephone, ray man ‘s The Gift and Marcel Duchamp‘s Bottle Racks. Most of the objects in the exhibition come from the Vitra Design Museum in Germany, which produced the exhibition, while other pieces come from private collections and important institutions such as the Tate and the Sainsbury Center for Visual Arts.
The exhibition begins by examining the 1920s, the origins of surrealism, when design played an important role in the evolution of the movement. Indeed, it is from everyday objects that the first artists likeDalí, Magritte, Meret Oppenheim and Man Ray was inspired by it. From the 1940s, on the other hand, it was designers who drew inspiration from surrealist art to create surprising and humorous objects. The exhibition will also include a UK focus, focusing on some important pieces of surrealist interior design created on British soil as well as the influence the movement had on fashion from the 1930s onwards.
In addition to presenting surrealist art, the exhibition will highlight the influence of the movement on contemporary creators. For example, sketches of contemporary designers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec will be exhibited, along with examples of Sketch furniture, traced by the designer’s hand and body in the air thanks to motion capture. The shapes thus drawn are translated into a digital file and then printed in 3D to create functional furniture. The exhibition offers a fascinating insight into how surrealist ideas have shaped the world of design and continue to influence contemporary artists and designers, with a third of the exhibits on display having been created within the last fifty years.

(Agnes Bifulco)

Images courtesy of Design Museum London

Objects of desire: surrealism and design 1924 – today
An exhibition of the Vitra Design Museum
Date: October 14, 2022 – February 19, 2023
Venue: Design Museum London, UK

Organized by
From the Design Museum, London – Kathryn Johnson (curator), Tiya Dahyabhai (assistant curator)
From the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein Dr. Mateo Kries (director, Vitra Design Museum), Tanja Cunz (assistant curator, Vitra Design Museum)
2D design of the exhibition: Violetta Boxhill

Legend and credits

01 Salvador Dalí, Lobster Telephone, 1938. Photo West Dean College of Arts and Conservation. © Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, DACS 2022
02 Tour, 1993, Gae Aulenti, Made by FontanaArte, Glass; bicycle wheels. Vitra Design Museum
03 Schiaparelli, Look 6 Haute Couture, Spring/Summer 2021. Courtesy of Schiaparelli
04 Mary Katrantzou, Typewriter printed silk dress, 2018. Courtesy of Mary Katrantzou
05 Wall plates no. 116 from the Themes and Variazioni series [Theme and Variations], after 1950, Piero Fornasetti, Silkscreen on porcelain. Fornasetti Archives
06 Hand Chair, circa 1962, Pedro Friedeberg, Production of this copy: c. 1965, carved mahogany. Vitra Design Museum
07 Horse Lamp, 2006, Front Design, Manufactured by Moooi BV, Breda /Niederlande, Plastic; metal. Vitra Design Museum
08 Salvador Dalí and Edward James, Lips Sofa by Mae West, c. 1938. Royal Pavilion & Museums Trust, Brighton and Hove. © Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, DACS 2022
09 Man Ray, Ingres’s Violin, 1924. © Man Ray 2015 Trust/DACS, London 2022
10 Porca Miseria!, 2019 edition of the 1994 design, Ingo Maurer, Steel; porcelain. Vitra Design Museum

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