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Tuesday 9 June 2009

Super Contemporary at the Design Museum, London

Finding myself with a couple of hours to spare at the weekend I went along London’s south bank to catch Super Contemporary at the Design Museum. Having interviewed guest curator Daniel Charny, for Aesthetica’s current issue I was interested to see the logistics of showcasing a timeline of the UK, and particularly London’s, political and cultural fluctuations over the past half century, alongside new innovations from 15 top design makers practicing in London today.

I’m a big fan of the design museum, especially the recent Hussein Chalayan retrospective and this provided a great contrast for the full scope of the institution’s remit. While the Chalayan space felt spacious and separated, Super Contemporary’s occupation of the museum’s first floor seemed to almost shrink the space with so much going on and the exhibition felt both smaller, with a paradoxical excess of information. Charny’s timeline proved to be truly absorbing however - I kind of wish I’d left my friends earlier in order to soak it all up and I feel like I’ve received a comprehensive crash course in the sparser areas of my design awareness. The exhibition faces a difficult predicament in contextualising the four prolific areas of product design, architecture, fashion and communication design within the huge changes of the British cultural, political and everyday realities since 1960 and for me the timeline was the most absorbing asset (despite the fact that Charny had emphasised the centrality of the commissions in our interview) – perhaps I’m too preoccupied with looking backwards instead of forwards!

Of the commissions Neville Brody’s Freedom Space was really striking, enhancing my awareness of being observed to an unnerving degree, but I also looked upon Paul Smith’s kitsch Rubbish Bin with amusement, it combined a traditional racing green with the plastic bunny mould in a manner which Smith has made his own over the years, and hints at the source of the unique extent of his popularity in Japan – paragon of the traditional and the contemporary amalgamation. Paul Cocksedge’s Rain It In was fantastic in its fusion of the dichotomies of art and science, and would prove hugely popular to this nesh visitor. I was also really interested to see Wayne Hemingway’s KiosKiosk, as it built on his ideas which we’d recently discussed on opportunism for escaping rents for new businesses in the recession.

All in all, Super Contemporary was a fantastic visit, another great contribution on the all-encompassing aesthetic possibilities showcased by design today.

Visited the Design Museum recently? I’d love to hear your thoughts…



Image credit: New London Bin by Paul Smith

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