Interrogating the past to understand the present (and hopefully predict the future) is an admirable aim at many museums and galleries, but few manage to carry it off. But London’s Design Museum has bucked the trend with a pair of new shows which complement each other perfectly.
This is Design is a fascinating romp through the museum’s collection spanning over a century of design classics, while In Pursuit of Imperfection showcases the museum’s four designers in residence – Simon Hasan, Hye-Yeon Park, Will Shannon and Jade Folawiyo.
“There is something really powerful about celebrating classic design of the past and showing that design is very much alive and well in London,” said Deyan Sudjic, Design Museum director. “The residency programme shows our commitment to nurturing the next generation of designers.”
And the talented quartet have paid back the museum’s faith in spades with four very different takes on the brief. Will Shannon’s work challenges us to reassess chipboard, that highly-engineered but not highly-prized material which he creates using a wonderful contraption straight out of a cartoon.
Jade Folawiyo scars metal with everyday products like lemon and salt and creates gorgeous lines of lamps which are all uniquely patterned, and Simon Hasan updates the boiled leather process to question how this luxury item can be transformed into something very different.
But the standout piece is Hye-Yeon Park’s Autonomous Clock, a cheeky, playful digital clock apparently with a mind of its own which creates mesmerising random patterns and words on its display, snapping back to the correct time when it senses someone is near.
Just a few paces away, This is Design is broken down into several broad themes such as manufacturing, identity and digitilastion and illustrates the part a dizzyingly diverse array of objects played in these stories, and the overall design narrative. It’s not often you are able to see an AK-47 in the same show as the Donna Up5 chair and several takes on the iconic anglepoise lamp.
The curation is excellent – informative but not overwhelming – and the two shows work in tandem, so much so that you could spend hours bouncing between them.