Lecture; Temporary Contemporary, the Boilerhouse at the V&A

As a tie-in with Bloomsbury Academic, publishers of Design Objects and the Museum (see, here), Joanna Weddell and myself were invited to give a Lunchtime Lecture at the Victoria and Albert Museum. As we shared the time-slot our talks were short and aimed at a general audience, but both are based on doctoral research, and the blurb draws connections between our projects, so I’ve included it in full before posting an edited version of my talk with the slides, which provided an additional strand of information supplementing the visuals.

Contemporary Design Objects in the Museum: Two Perspectives
The Lydia and Manfred Gorvy Lecture Theatre
Victoria and Albert Museum
Cromwell Road, London SW7
26 April 2017

‘This lecture will examine the exhibition of 20th century design. Circulation, or ‘Circ’ was responsible for many of the Museum’s acquisitions of post-war contemporary design. Joanna Weddell will discuss Circ’s role as a ‘museum within a museum’ through shows such as Design Review, 1975. The Boilerhouse Gallery was a temporary intervention at the Museum funded and run by the Conran Foundation, as Liz Farrelly will explain. Betweeen 1981 and 1986 the Gallery increased the visibility of contemporary design through thematic exhibitions that booted visitor figures and grabbed headlines, later morphing into the Design Museum at Shad Thames.’ Lunchtime Lectures Summer 2017, V&A.

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Seminar Paper; Mediating Design, a case study in diversity

Modes of Mediating Applied Art and Design
7th Tallinn Applied Art Triennial
Soprus Cinema
Vanna-Posti 8, Tallinn, Estonia
21 April 2017

This is an edited version of a paper I presented amidst Art Deco splendor in Tallinn. While the city was still waiting for spring the reception was warm, and the audience and fellow speakers contributed to a lively discussion around the role of media in the mediating art and design. I’d like to thank Triin Jerlie and Keiu Krikmann for inviting me to speak, and the organising committee of the Tallinn Applied Art Triennial and the British Embassy Tallinn for funding my trip. Look for another post about Tallinn, the city-wide Triennial and the Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design.

This paper is still in the form of a ‘talk’, but also constitutes work-in-progress that will inform the last chapter of my doctoral thesis on the future of design museums. In May, I presented a longer version to University of Brighton MA Art and Design History students as part of the module, Critical Reflection, at the invitation of my colleague, Megha Rajguru, and that version of the talk provided an opportunity to explore changing definitions of ‘interpretation’. The images are from my PowerPoint presentation, and either taken from the Internet or using my Apple iPhone 4S.
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From the Archive; remembering Lucienne Day

Lucienne Day in New York with Calyx (1951), 1952: The Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation and archive. Photographer: Studio Briggs.

Lucienne Day in New York with Calyx (1951), 1952: The Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation and archive. Photographer: Studio Briggs.

The current issue of Blueprint celebrates the life and work of Lucienne Day in the centenary year of her birth, with articles by and about her. The back pages of the magazine collect previous articles about the renowned designer, including a review I wrote about an exhibition at Manchester’s Whitworth Art Gallery, long before the stunning renovation and addition (mentioned in a previous post about Manchester, here); when I visited the Gallery presented a perfect example of late Victorian institutional architecture, a fine addition to the “Red Brick” University of Manchester. Initially, the thought of re-reading an article written over 24 years ago was a bit daunting, but then it helped me recall my first time in Manchester, an extraordinary day trip, meeting Lucienne Day and Jennifer Harris (the curator and author of the exhibition catalogue), and the privilege of walking the exhibition in their company. A new exhibition at the Gallery, Lucienne Day – A sense of growth, from 14 April to 11 June 2017, examines how plant forms inspired many of Lucienne Day’s iconic patterns. I hope to get back up north to visit it…

Lucienne Day celebrated in Blueprint, no. 351.

Lucienne Day celebrated in Blueprint, no. 351.

“British design’s first celebrity”
by Liz Farrelly
Blueprint, June 1993, pp.36-38
Exhibition review of Lucienne Day: a career in design
Whitworth Art Gallery, Oxford Road, Manchester
23 April to 26 June 1993
Visited 22 April 1993

Calyx screen-printed furnishing fabric, Lucienne Day, Heal’s Wholesale &; Export, 1951. The Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation and archive.

Calyx screen-printed furnishing fabric, Lucienne Day, Heal’s Wholesale & Export, 1951: The Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation and archive.

After a long and distinguished carer, Lucienne Day is being honoured with a retrospective exhibition which, appropriately enough for a textile designer, is in Manchester. Over 80 per cent of her furnishing fabrics are here, supplemented by examples of designs for wallpaper and tableware, showing a great virtuosity of image-making and variety of aesthetics. And while the exhibition sheds light on an individual’s career, it acts just as effectively as a review of changing styles in domestic taste, albeit at the upper end of the market.
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Issues around archives, part two; Using Museum Archives

Screen Shot of the British Museum’s Libraries and Archives webpage.

Screen Shot of the British Museum’s Libraries and Archives webpage, with information about the Central Archive.

Using Museum Archives
British Museum
Great Russell Street, London WC1
13 July 2015

The audience was welcomed by the event’s organisers, Laura Carter of University of Cambridge and Sarah Longair of the British Museum, who urged us to join the Museums and Galleries History Group and read Museum History Journal, both of which were new to me.

Francesca Hillier, Central Archivist at the British Museum, began her talk with what I consider a shocking fact, that she is the only archivist employed by the Museum, and went on to describe an institution built on eccentricities, which made me realise (again) that I’m as fascinated by the history of museums as by the objects within them. We heard that the Central Archive holds the deeds for the land and buildings of the British Museum; minutes from Trustees Meetings, since 1753; and internal reports and administrative records. Francesca emphasised the Museum’s “very complicated” history that has led to departments also having archives (perhaps due to their quasi-sovereign power despite name changes and reshuffles). For while Keepers were required to justify collecting activity to the Trustees, they also managed to “slip stuff in”, bought or acquired independently, which meant that record keeping was a hot potato. The hiving off of Museum departments into separate institutions – the Natural History Museum and British Library – has further complicated matters as archival material may have followed the objects, or not.
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From the Archive; Furniture, Jerwood Applied Arts Prize 1999

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Furniture: Jerwood Applied Arts Prize 1999
Jerwood Charitable Foundation
Crafts Council Gallery
441 Pentonville Road, London N1
26 August to 3 October 1999

I wrote an essay for this exhibition catalogue (produced by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation and the Crafts Council, designed by Pentagram) while I was a nomad, living and working between two continents. I remember the irony of writing about furniture when all I owned was in storage, but I was an unrepentant collector, even buying pieces from fellow students while at the RCA (Allison Jane Thomas’s Tutti-Frutti stool (1990) is in the V&A; mine is upholstered in tan leather).

Coincidentally, 1999 was when auctioneer Alexander Payne first coined the term Design Art; he later ditched it due to “misuse” as reported in ICON (8/2/08). So, when I say in the essay, “furniture has no pedestal”, that was about to change, although the turn towards narrative and meaning beyond function was acknowledged.

Another shift of emphasis has occurred in the career trajectories of new designers. Where I listed migration to Milan, the epicentre of the contemporary furniture trade, as a right of passage, subsequent diversification of production has widened the geographical spread of design activity. “Eleven years ago UNESCO launched the Creative Cities Network to recognize cities around the world whose creativity has an impact on their social, economic, and political development”; Business Insider spotlights 16 design-focused cities, here. Through a mix of city council initiatives, the presence of museums and universities (with students travelling to study and then relocating), and Design Festivals and Biennales that disperse the power of promotion, designers are living and working beyond the industry’s powerhouse cities (Milan, Paris, Tokyo, New York, London), in places like Oslo, Cape Town, Istanbul, Los Angeles and Hong Kong. Hints of that trend were evident in the career choices of the designers selected for this award, perhaps because they foregrounded making in their practice as opposed to mass-production. The shortlist featured Jane Atfield, Robert Kilvington, Mary Little, Michael Marriott, Guy Martin, Jim Partridge, Simon Pengelly and Michael Young.
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From the Archive (& now); a moment of manga

Manga is a popular choice for museum exhibitions and displays: with boundless variations in content and style, it’s accessible but (still) culturally exotic; it mixes scholarly research with contemporary collecting; and whether PG-rated or not, attracts a diverse audience of geeks and gawkers of all ages. Not for the first time, the British Museum gives over the high profile Room 3 (can’t miss it, first stop on the right) to a manga-moment with Manga now: three generations, which features new and specially commissioned work by Chiba Tetsuya, Hoshino Yukinobu and Nakamura Hikaru. I’ll pop in to inspect it next time I’m on the hallowed ground.

Manga now, three generations
The Asahi Shimbun Displays, Objects in Focus
British Museum
Great Russell Street, London WC1
www.britishmuseum.org
3 September to 15 November 2015

Screen Shot from the British Museum’s website; three manga artists

Screen Shot from the British Museum’s website; three manga artists

Previously the same gallery featured the stunning display, Manga, Professor Munakata’s British Museum adventure (5/11/09-3/1/10), by Hoshino Yukinobu. Jane Cheng reviewed that show on Eye, here: “The juxtaposition of hugely enlarged with minutely detailed asks visitors both to lean in closer and to step back”. Jane’s post features great images of the life-sized cut-outs in situ – like walking through a giant pop-up book — and she highlights the interactive nature of illustration exhibitions (something I recognised too at the V&A’s Memory Palace show, and featured in a conference paper, here). Loving a museum-based-mystery, especially one that showcases perfectly rendered images of museum objects (and hat’s off, what a tie-in, when’s the movie?), I ordered said graphic novel from the BM’s online shop having received a timely email reminding me of the publication on the same morning that the new show opened; now that’s what I call museum marketing. The online shop also tells customers, “Every purchase supports the Museum” (rather than Amazon).
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VitraHaus, displaying design for sale; implications for design museums

VitraHaus
Vitra Campus
Ray-Eames-Str. 1, Weil Am Rhein, Germany
www.vitra.com
Visited, 16 to 18 October 2014

In relation to design objects and the museum, VitraHaus, the close neighbour of VDM, is worth pondering. Sited on the Vitra campus, it opened in 2010. As the flagship store for the Vitra Home Collection it showcases the furniture manufacturer’s domestic ranges (distinct from the contract products that are specified by architects for public and office spaces). On Vitra’s vast website, the page for VitraHaus invites us to “find inspiration for your home, explore your taste in design and try out, order and purchase furniture and design objects”.

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MUSCON at Vitra; and a summer of design exhibitions

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MUSCON 2014
European Museum Network Conference
Vitra Design Museum
Charles-Eames-Str. 2, Weil Am Rhein, Germany
www.design-museum.de
15 to 18 October 2014

Last year I was invited to attend a MUSCON conference hosted by the Vitra Design Museum, the institution that instigated the network back in 1996. I was present as an observer (along with fellow researchers Sabina Michaelis and Rosita Satell from the University of Southern Denmark) as the event is intended for staff from member institutions to pitch and negotiate the “buying and selling” of upcoming exhibitions as touring shows (here’s how VDM do it). Every year or so there are regional MUSCON conferences in Europe, the US and Asia. As a crash-course in museum programming and an introduction to a wide range of institutions (from Finland to Italy, Kilkenny to Ljubljana), the conference offered an opportunity to underpin my research with the kind of real-world issues facing museum staff…and put names to faces. Although not every MUSCON institution is a “design museum” they’re all keen to include design in their curatorial offer.
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From the Archive; five curators interviewed

As a contributor to Design Week in its print form, I worked with Lynda Relph-Knight and her editorial team for fifteen years; she was the first editor to commission me as when I became a freelancer writre in 1994. Until recently it was possible to search the entire DW print run, via its website, and find “full text” of years and years of design journalism, so I could access my back catalogue of articles including a regular column. Not only was this a useful research tool (with a search box), but it also functioned as a (stop-gap) personal archive too. However, a recent website redesign has adopted a sub-Instagram interface that displays just a handful of results, which can neither be saved nor downloaded, and, mysteriously, DW has cut years off its age!

Scrabbling around at home, I found “some” (but not all) tear sheets of articles and this particular one seemed relevant to share. In early 1999 I interviewed five curators who were producing design exhibitions, and we talked about their current shows. To foreground the curators’ voices I edited our conversations into monologues (the interviews were taped). Each curator also discussed the nascent field of design curating, which was evidently flourishing. Design was in the air during the build-up to the opening of the Millennium Dome (big party 31/12/99, cue Prince); the press was full of stories about architects and designers as controversy surrounded the various exhibits planned for the Dome. Stephen Bayley, ex-Design Museum Director, had been in charge but by the end of 1997 he was ex-Millennium Dome too; he resigned. See Chapter 6 on the Dome, in The Trojan Horse: The Growth of Commercial Sponsorship by Deborah Philips and Garry Whannel (Bloomsbury, 2013).

At the time the prospect of a “Millennium Bug” melting down our PCs was freaking people out but the world was still on the cusp of digital connectivity; the Internet was dial-up and mass adoption of websites by business and government was still to come. So this design-curating activity and these exhibitions remain under-documented online – just try searching for them. When I’ve found “traces” I’ve added links, but it appears that some of the exhibitions have nudged off “past projects” pages (if the curators have a website). I’ve also included links to information on individuals to show their subsequent career paths. The catalogue cover images are from my own copies.

“Display cases”
by Liz Farrelly
Design Week
26 March 1999, pp.41-48

Standfirst: Five curators describe, in their own words, their experiences and the highs and lows of managing and producing an exhibition. Liz Farrelly acts as custodian.
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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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