First Visit; Vitra Schaudepot

Exterior of the Vitra Schaudepot, by Herzog & de Meuron. Photo © Vitra Design Museum, Julien Lanoo

Exterior of the Vitra Schaudepot, by Herzog & de Meuron. Photo © Vitra Design Museum, Julien Lanoo

Vitra Schaudepot
Vitra Design Museum
Charles-Eames-Str. 2, Weil am Rhein, Germany
Visited, 31 May 2016

I used to go on press trips so regularly that I thought I didn’t need holidays. Travelling on planes and trains across Europe, America and further afield I visited designers, studios, factories and museums. Having swopped my peripatetic lifestyle for a more sedentary teaching gig, this press trip came out of the blue. I previously visited Vitra for a MUSCON conference (read about it, here) and marvelled at the Vitra Haus (read, here), so was aware of the upcoming addition to the extraordinary campus and keen to see the Schaudepot (Open Storage), a relatively new development in museum practice. A return visit wasn’t on my agenda though, so when this invitation popped into my inbox along with a commission to review the Vitra Collection’s new home, I was up for it! My article appeared in Blueprint magazine (no.347, p.36) and is available online at Design/Curial, here. This post adds details from the press conference and a conversation with Curator Janna Lipsky.
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First Visit; IKEA Museum

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This gallery contains 36 photos.

IKEA Museum IKEAgatan, 5, 343.36 Älmhult, Sweden ikeamuseum.com Visited, 9 June 2016 Invited to the Press Preview of the new IKEA Museum, I travelled to the company town of Älmhult in southern Sweden. Later I wrote an article about the … Continue reading

Guest blogger; Circ in the Museum

From the V&A’s Search the Collections website, using the keyword ‘Circ’. Cabinet, made in 1861 by Richard Norman Shaw. CIRC.96.1 to 12-1963. (Accessioned by the Circulation Department in 1963). ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

From the V&A’s Search the Collections website, using the keyword ‘Circ’. Cabinet, made in 1861 by Richard Norman Shaw. CIRC.96.1 to 12-1963. (Accessioned by the Circulation Department in 1963). ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Originally published on Bloomsbury Visual Arts Blog in July 2016, Joanna Weddell reflects on comments made by the Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, Martin Roth, on the occasion of the museum winning the Art Fund’s Museum of the Year 2016 award. Joanna co-edited Design Objects and the Museum with me, which is published by Bloomsbury Academic, and available here.

‘The V&A Circulation Department and Museum of the Year 2016’
by Joanna Weddell
Bloomsbury Visual Arts Blog

On 6 July 2016 Martin Roth, Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), London, announced a plan ‘to revive the Museum’s legendary Circulation Department’. As a member of the Museum’s Research Department, I was delighted to hear a clear reference to the subject of my chapter in Design Objects and the Museum, co-edited with Liz Farrelly (Bloomsbury Academic, January 2016).
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From the Archive; revisiting Norwegian design

2016-05-15 13.12.18

“Non-competitive Advantage”
by Liz Farrelly
Blueprint
No.336, pp.148-164

On the occasion of an exhibition promoting Norwegian design in New York, here’s an article from my archive, “Non-competitive Advantage”, available on DesignCurial. Originally published in Blueprint magazine, I wrote it after a snowy trip to Oslo in February 2014, organised by the Norwegian Embassy in London and hosted by DOGA, the Norwegian Centre for Design and Architecture. A group of European journalists met and mingled with Norwegian designers, and as well as seeing and hearing about new work the big surprise (for me) was the Norwegian government’s commitment to promoting Norway’s nascent design industry.
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Shopping Paradise; objects on display

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This gallery contains 33 photos.

Outside looking in, the glazed facade of Brighton’s premier flea market, Snoopers Paradise (“Snoopers”), projects domestic objects right into the street. Close-up window-shopping is only possible out of hours when external stalls have been packed away, but it draws people … Continue reading

Denmark for design museums; a discussion

Design Museums for the 21st Century; a round table discussion
Trapholt Museum and University of Southern Denmark
Kolding, Denmark
23 January 2014

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When your PhD supervisor tells you to go to Denmark in freezing January, you go; the icing on the cake was that it started snowing as we sat in the Trapholt Museum’s meeting room, with its giant picture window, and everyone went “aaaahhhh”. The Museum is housed in a playfully modern building, boasts an unrivalled collection of Danish chairs and is next door to Arne Jacobsen’s summer house (sadly I didn’t get inside, this time), so that made up for the weather. I also got to see the thought-provoking and unprecedented touring exhibition, Out to Sea? The Plastic Garbage Project, which seemed totally appropriate in a country that loves fish.

My reporting of the round table is from my notes, with additional my comments; where they are short and in the same paragraph, they’re in [square brackets].

My supervisor is University of Brighton’s Professor of Design Culture, Guy Julier, and he is also Visiting Professor at University of Southern Denmark. He’d gathered his grad students from Denmark and Brighton, along with “expert witnesses” from the museum world in Denmark and the UK, to discuss design. Guy opened the proceedings by telling us that design museums were “mushrooming”. He counted 45 European design museums with more projects for new, expanding and relocating institutions still in the pipeline, mentioning that Mexico City’s MUMEDI, tripled its visitor numbers by rebranding as a “design museum”. He talked about the tension in museums between the contemporary and history, design and design history, and that a contextual approach to design in museums was the way forward, mixing the excitement of innovation with the pragmatism of solving problems, and heritage and continuity with new technology and innovative design fields. Finally, he pointed to the Index Awards (a Danish initiative) as evidence of design shifting away from a fascination with “heroes”. […and by extension, a recognised canon?]
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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; Can Starck be serious?

I wrote this review of an exhibition at London’s Design Museum when I worked for Wordsearch, at the time was the publisher of the design magazines, Blueprint and Eye. I was a writer and assistant editor on both titles, from 1990 to 1994, and continue to contribute on a freelance basis. We also published Design Review, a magazine for members of the Chartered Society of Designers, which ran from 1991 to 1994. (For a seminal study of the CSD see Dr. Leah Armstrong’s doctoral thesis, Designing a profession: the structure, organisation and identity of the design profession in Britain, 1930-2010 available at the University of Brighton’s Grand Parade library.)

I came across this exhibition review during the long and dusty process of locating, scanning and (still hopefully) posting as complete a record of my published design journalism as I can muster; an online archive is in the works, hence the long and inexcusable lapse since my last post on this blog. I’m thinking a lot about archives right now. I’ve planned a series of visits to the Design Museum’s archive, which is currently being re-organisation, and I hope to post some gems from it in the coming months. Archiving my interaction with the museum is a priority too, as I investigate the museum’s online, digital and social media presence. I began mapping the museum’s website early on in my doctoral research; now that the museum has recently launched a new website there is a unique opportunity for assessing how changes in the museum’s offer are presented and communicated, and how the museum’s online presence might reflect and/or facilitate such changes.
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Voting for Design; Designs of the Year

For its annual Designs of the Year award, London’s Design Museum employs social media, an email campaign and a micro-site to engage with its audience and entice it to judge the exhibits. It also suggests that talent-spotting curation offers a glimpse into the future.

For its annual Designs of the Year award, London’s Design Museum employs social media, an email campaign and a micro-site to engage with its audience and entice it to judge the exhibits. It also suggests that talent-spotting curation offers a glimpse into the future.

Designs of the Year 2014
Design Museum
Shad Thames, London SE1
26 March to 25 August 2014
Nominees’ Party
25 March 2014

An exercise in engagement, a sure-fire media event, and a comprehensive round-up of the best design launched in a year, the Design Museum’s Designs of the Year award and exhibition is now in its seventh year, showcasing design across a range of categories; Architecture, Digital, Fashion, Furniture, Graphic, Product and Transport. Designs of the Year was instigated by the current Director, Deyan Sudjic, to replace the “Designer of the Year” award, when a winner was picked from just four nominated individuals whose careers and recent achievements were being judged rather than any particular outcomes. Increasingly, that competition attracted criticism for pitting star-designers against rank outsiders, and for some controversial decisions. Opening up the nomination and judging process to a wider panel, Designs of the Year provides the public with an annual, international round-up of headline-grabbing ideas, solutions and products.

The selection process for this new format has also generated a worldwide network of judges and nominatee from across the design industry — the museum’s extended “family” — who are now known to curators, with both parties mutually benefitting from the association. For the past three years, I’ve been asked to nominate, and each year had a couple of my choices make it through to the “exhibition” round. Proof of how much designers and their clients appreciate this opportunity to exhibit at the Design Museum may be judged by the massive amount of social media and personal thanks generated on the “shortlist” day, when the selection is announced; and by the packed, riotous party on the eve of opening. I’m writing this after attending the nominees party, so excuse the lack of focus on particular exhibits; this show demands repeat viewing as there’s so much to see.
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8 Chairs, making it old

Credit : Ed Reeve

8 Chairs, Clarke & Reilly
Gallery Libby Sellers
41-42 Berners Street, London
14 March to 26 April 2013
Visited 25 April 2013

Gallery installation photography by Ed Reeve

The pathetic sight of an abandoned sofa, hunched next to the bins, between pavement and road, that reveals an intimacy of wear and tear, of spills and rips, is enough to guarantee it’ll never be loved again. The inappropriateness of seeing a fundamentally domestic object in such an immodestly public setting – the world upside down – chases away any last vestige of cosiness and comfort. Now it’s only fit for the worst type of treatment…and ultimately the dump.
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