Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924 – Today at the Design Museum
The Design Museum explores the exciting marriage between Surrealism and design in the inspiring new exhibition Objects of Desire. Around 350 exhibits spanning almost 100 years capture the boundless creativity of the Surrealist approach and how it led to the creation of unexpected and intriguing items.
When Surrealism replaced the minimalist aesthetics of 1920s modernism, it revolutionised design as profoundly as it did art. The pioneers of the movement bypassed notions of practicality and logic to introduce fresh perspectives that often stemmed from their subconscious and from the deepest recesses of their imagination. The medium of expression they used became secondary: they moved across disciplines such as painting, writing, interior design, architecture, fashion or film with equal zeal. The principal aim was to create and to do so with absolute freedom.
As a central figure of Surrealism, Salvador Dalí features prominently in the exhibition with different works showcasing the breadth of his creative output. From his Metamorphosis of Narcissus painting to photographs of his eccentric interior design commissions, but also fashion products such as the Telephone Dial powder compact (part of his collaboration with designer Elsa Schiaparelli), it’s impossible not to be delighted by the inventiveness of his vision. A major highlight is his iconic Lobster Telephone and the Mae West Lips sofa, which can be both admired in the first room. Another gem is a short video that Dalí worked on with Walt Disney in the 1940s, depicting a dream-like sequence in his familiar style. Although the project was abandoned at the time, Destino was finally released in 2003, and it’s a captivating piece that hints at the major reach of Surrealism, even in mainstream culture.
The rich collection of exhibits features works by René Magritte, Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray and Le Corbusier, to name a few. Visitors will also find several creations belonging to the Radical Design movement that began in 1960s Italy, as well as a section on the human body and eroticism, topics of interest vastly explored by Surrealists. The final part shows that the movement’s influence on design is ongoing and still evolving and that it is increasingly moving into digital realms. A wonderful example of this is the Sketch Chair by Front Studio, designed by making hand gestures in the air which are recorded using motion capture technology and translated into 3D.
Objects of Desire is a mix of the humorous, the absurd and the provocative but it is most of all inspiring and fascinating in the way it captures emotions and psychological states while rethinking organic forms, deconstructing reality and embracing the irrational. It’s a real treat for the eyes and mind.
Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924 – Today is at the Design Museum from 14th October until 19th February 2023. For further information visit the exhibition’s website here.