From the Archive; design Boom

James Jennifer Georgina, 2010, by Jennifer Butler, designed by Irma Boom

James Jennifer Georgina, 2010, by Jennifer Butler, designed by Irma Boom

Last week I wrote and delivered a lecture about Feminism to first-year Graphic Design and Illustration students at the University of Brighton. In addition to the feminist art history strategy of re-evaluating under-appreciated women artists, I’d like to stress the importance of presenting female role models to students, more so now that the gender balance in the classroom is tipping in favour of female students while the teaching is mainly done by men. Of course this is an old story; I wrote about the invisibility of women in design in 1995, first published in Eye and re-posted here. Kudos goes to the women’s advocacy groups within design academia and the profession, including WD+RU and Graphics UK Women, who are curating, teaching and writing about women in design. So, with the aim of increasing visibility, as the last few posts have been interviews with the usual suspects, here is an interview with one of the world’s most renowned designers, Irma Boom, who has consistently advocated experimentation with materials and techniques (which is good advice for all), while self-directing her career and occasionally stepping into the limelight to promote her work.
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Design Objects and the Museum; the book

Cover DOATM Bloomsbury

Design Objects and the Museum
Edited by Liz Farrelly and Joanna Weddell
Bloomsbury Academic, 2016

Contributors: Leah Armstrong, Nicola Ashmore, Sue Breakell, Helen Charman, Jason Cleverly, Liz Farrelly, Guy Julier, Marianne Lamonaca, Virginia Lucarelli, Magha Rajguru, Gillian Russell, Jana Scholze, Nicola Stylianou, Deborah Sugg Ryan, Damon Taylor, Joanna Weddell, Gareth Williams, Tom Wilson, Ness Wood, Jonathan Woodham

Having worked in publishing – commissioning, editing and writing – it was interesting to see how the process of co-editing a book of academic papers for a peer-reviewed press differs from creating visual books for mainstream publishers. Why? Because myself and a colleague, Joanna Weddell, a fellow AHRC CDA candidate at University of Brighton, have completed just such a “tome” for Bloomsbury Academic.
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Tracing the temporary; clues to past exhibitions

I’m apologising upfront for ranging around a few ideas here. I wanted to avoid using footnotes but not lose any tangents either; after all this is a blog post which needs to be a little more condensed than my thesis (!) but at the same time it is discursive. This is a place for me to try out ideas.

While my PhD is not a history or geography of design museums a taxonomy is helpful in order to demarcate the field, the still novel “museum type” of “design museum”. The exhibition catalogue, Design Museums of the World: Invited by Die Neue Sammlung Munich (published by Birkhäuser in 2004) accompanied the show, Design Museums of the World, staged at Neues Museum Staatliches Museum für Kunst und Design in Nürnberg (17 September to 23 November 2003). A rich source of information and opinion, this surveys the field at the start of the 21st-century, and I investigate it at length in my literature review.

If I could travel the world visiting exhibitions I would, but as I don’t…I didn’t see the exhibition and I would guess that few of the MUSCON Europe delegates did either, as when a big box of the exhibition’s catalogues made an appearance at Vitra Design Museum (summer 2014), coinciding with Angelika Nollert’s keynote speech, it was eagerly consumed. Angelika had been Director at the Neues Museum Staatliches Museum für Kunst und Design in Nürnberg and is now Director at sister institution Die Neue Sammlung München; the collaboration between the institutions, which produced the exhibition and publication, is mirrored by Angelika’s career.

As I’m interested in how a temporary show lives on after its “time is up”, this catalogue proves a point – the usefulness of investing in print on paper. Originally produced for the debut exhibition at Nürnberg’s new art and design museum, the catalogue is a unique resource for comparing and contrasting a number of design museums, 29 in all, at a particular moment in history. Worldwide there are about twice that number now, and while many of the institutions listed in the catalogue evolved from museums of decorative arts, or were art museums that extended their remit, most of the newly opened institutions are “purely” design focused. Along with the newbies, some of the world’s most established museums of design are reinventing themselves; this is a time of flux.
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Grayson Perry; Weaving Media

iPad and iPhone app by Aimer Media

iPad and iPhone app by Aimer Media

The Vanity of Small Differences
Victoria Miro
26 Wharf Road, London N1
From 7 June to 11 August 2012
Visited 21 July 2012

Currently at Royal Academy of Arts, London
From 10 June to 18 August 2013
and Sunderland Museum, Tyne and Wear
From 28 June to 29 September 2013

Not just an exhibition; it’s a six-tapestry cycle, “The Vanity of Small Differences”; a three-programme television series, “All in the best possible taste with Grayson Perry” on Channel 4; a London show and national tour; a book by Hayward Publishing and now an app by Aimer Media; the multiple-media by which Grayson Perry has disseminated his thesis on British class and taste is an impressive exemplar of cross-platform marketing and, in academic terms, of engagement and impact. If Perry were earning REF (Research Excellence Framework) points for a higher education institution, it would score off the scale.

Last summer I watched the TV shows (thanks 4oD) and then stood in front of the tapestries on a sunny Saturday afternoon. It felt like half the Guardian readers of London were doing likewise, but the Victoria Miro gallery was spacious and calm (thanks to a recent addition by minimalist-maestro Claudio Silvestrin). Because it’s a commercial gallery and doesn’t attempt to capture visitors for an all-day session (with cafes and shops), the crowd milled and departed. It was a diverse audience too (possibly because of the TV-tie-in), providing an excellent opportunity for people watching and eavesdropping. A second gallery sofa would have been nice.

A reinterpretation of William Hogarth’s “A Rake’s Progress” (1732-1733), the project is a moral tale for 21st-century Britain. In the TV shows we hear Perry’s aims and motivation, travel with him around the country and go behind the scenes, witnessing his working process, a blend of research, drawing and making.
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à la mode in New York

Claude Monet. Women in the Garden, 1866. Courtesy of Musée, d’Orsay, Paris. Alongside embellished white dress from the exhibition

Claude Monet. Women in the Garden, 1866. Courtesy of Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Alongside embellished white dress from the exhibition

Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
26 February to 27 May 2013
Visited 12 May 2013

From PUNK to the sublime; the next-door exhibition, on that Sunday morning, was one I’d just missed at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris back in January, where tantalizingly the entrance banner was still up but the show had closed. So I was excited to see this joint venture (between museums in Paris, New York and Chicago) in its second incarnation, enjoying spacious galleries and perfect lighting that happily accommodated both paintings and textiles.

Even though my main professional interest is contemporary design in the context of design museums, as an avid gallery-goer I’m drawn to an exhibition such as this, which presents a sure-fire art-historical hit (there’s no better crowd pleaser than Impressionism) in a new light. And, from the point of view of Museum Studies this is an interesting show; mixing over 80 major figure paintings by Impressionists and their fashionable contemporaries, with historical artefacts and garments – the clothes and accessories depicted in paint on canvas – demonstrates a newly collaborative approach to exhibition curation.
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Conference Session; Design Objects and the Museum

39th Annual AAH Conference
University of Reading
11 to 13 April 2013

More usually I write up conferences from the vantage point of being an audience member. This time, however, I was a convenor, which entailed defining the theme, sending out our call for papers to networks far and wide, selecting the papers, and chairing the discussion. I’ve written this in partnership with Joanna Weddell.

At the 39th Annual Association of Art Historians Conference, myself and Joanna Weddell (we’re both recipients of AHRC Collaborative Doctorate Awards at the University of Brighton, with the Victoria and Albert Museum and London’s Design Museum, respectively) organised a session titled “Design Objects and the Museum”. Prompted by a quote from Bourdieu and Darbel’s 1969 study of museum visitors (“Maybe there should be museums with modern stuff in them, but it wouldn’t be a proper museum”), the session questioned notions of what could and should be displayed, and where, and how methods of display and interpretation might engage and educate a museum’s public.
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When an exhibition is a movie…


Exhibition: Great Art on Screen
Manet: Portraying Life

Duke’s at Komedia, Brighton, UK.
Attended, 3pm, 16 April 2013

Sneaking off to the movies mid-week and daytime usually feels slightly naughty, but this particular escapade fits well with my MPhil/PhD research topic, which is looking at the future of museums (OK, that’s a bit vague)…
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