Sometimes it is just sooooooo hard to not touch things in a museum. I was mighty tempted last week at Atlanta’s splendid High Museum of Art when touring the new exhibit “European Design Since 1985: Shaping the New Century.”
We were lucky enough to get a sneak preview of the exhibit (it’s now open) while there during a southeast chapter meeting of the Society of American Travel Writers, meaning we didn’t have to fight the nattily dressed crowds.
A funny aside: not only we were not allowed to take photos inside the exhibit (not unusual), we were told to put away our ink pens. That was a first. So I pulled out my pencil and scribbled away.
The show, up only through Aug. 29 (so get going!), is billed as the first survey of contemporary Western Europe decorative arts and product design. It’s organized by the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the Denver Art Museum and encompasses furniture, glass, ceramics, metalwork, lamps, and household items. Designers include the ubiquitous Philippe Starck, as well as Marc Newson, Marcel Wanders, Tord Boontje, and the Bouroullec Brothers. Way exciting!
Just how contemporary is the work? My travel writing pal Ellen Perlman of “Boldly Go Solo” fame kept exclaiming: I have that kettle in my house! I have that watering can, from Ikea! Who knew that Ellen was a design maven? (Hey, Ellen, wanna see my Alessi toothpick holder?)
The first floor holds a yummy collection of chairs. I wanted to not just touch but to sit, though most are more for looking, not lounging. My favorite was Mathias Bengtsson’s “Slice Chair,” the aluminum version from 1999. The Danish designer, based in London, has done several variations on the theme. Here’s a great Q&A with him.
Much in the way Ellen was excited about her household goods, Wessel was thrilled to see so many Dutch designers, not that that should be a surprise. We’re talking Tejo Remy, Piet Hein Eek, Tord Boontje (you’ve seen his paper-lace lampshades) and more, many whose work are sold through Droog, my favorite Amsterdam design shop (more on that some day).
Whippet lovers will go wild for the “Whippet Bench” by RADI Designers in Paris. If it were a dachshund, I’d go out of my mind and might have to spent my life savings on it.
Groupings of work were labeled with headings like modernism, post modernism, neo-pop, biomorphic, neo-decorative, etc. Whatever you want to call these movements, I call them super cool (one reason I’ll never be an art critic)!
Speaking of art criticism, we watched two museum staffers spend an inordinate amount of time trying to change a light bulb inside a wildly shaped lamp. So, how many art guys does it take to change a light bulb? Three. One to hold the precious lamp, one to screw in the bulb, and one to review the show.
Tags: Alessi, Atlanta, Bouroullec, Denver Art Museum, Droog Design, Ellen Perlman, European Design, Georgia, High Museum, Indianapolis Art Museum, Marc Newson, Marcel Wanders, Mathias Bengtsson, modern design, Philippe Starck, Piet Hein Eek, RADI Designers, Ross Lovegrove, Slice Chair, Tejo Remy, Tord Boontje, Ty Nant, Whippet, whippet bench