Surrealism and design on display at London’s Design Museum

Surrealism has had a profound influence on the design world. The movement, which emerged in the 1920s, not only revolutionised art, but had a significant impact on various areas from decorative arts and furniture to interiors, fashion, photography and film. From 14 October, and until 19 February 2023, the Design Museum in London will host the exhibition “Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924 – Today” which traces the history of Surrealism and its influence on design.

The exhibition will cover nearly a hundred years and is divided into four sections: everyday objects, interior design, fashion and the body, and the mind. Some 350 objects will be on display, including paintings, sculptures, photographs and clothing. The exhibition will also feature some of the world’s most famous surrealist works, such as Salvador Dalí ‘s Lobster Phone, Man Ray ‘s The Gift (Le Cadeau) and Marcel Duchamp‘s Porte-Bouteilles. Most of the objects in the exhibition come from the Vitra Design Museum in Germany, which produced the exhibition, while other pieces come from private collections and important institutions such as the Tate and the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts.

The exhibition begins by examining the 1920s, the origins of Surrealism, when design played an important role in the evolution of the movement. Indeed, it was from everyday objects that early artists such asDalí, Magritte, Meret Oppenheim and Man Ray drew inspiration. From the 1940s onwards, on the other hand, it was the designers who drew inspiration from surrealist art to create surprising and humorous objects. The exhibition will also include a focus on the United Kingdom, concentrating on some important pieces of Surrealist interior design created on British soil as well as on the influence the movement had on fashion from the 1930s onwards.

In addition to presenting Surrealist art, the exhibition will highlight the movement’s influence on contemporary designers. For instance, sketches by contemporary designers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec will be on display, as well as examples of Sketch furniture, traced by the hand and body of the designer in mid-air using motion capture. The shapes drawn in this way are translated into a digital file and then 3D printed to create functional furniture. The exhibition offers a fascinating insight into how surrealist ideas have shaped the world of design and continue to influence contemporary artists and designers, with one third of the objects on display having been created in the last fifty years.

(Agnese Bifulco)

Images courtesy of The Design Museum London


Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924 – Today

A Vitra Design Museum exhibition

Date: 14 October 2022 – 19 February 2023

Location: the Design Museum London, UK

Curated by

From the Design Museum, London – Kathryn Johnson (Curator), Tiya Dahyabhai (Assistant Curator)

From the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein Dr. Mateo Kries (Director, Vitra Design Museum), Tanja Cunz (Assistant Curator, Vitra Design Museum)

Exhibition 2D Design: Violetta Boxhill

Caption and Credits

01 Salvador Dalí, Lobster Telephone, 1938. Photo West Dean College of Arts and Conservation. © Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, DACS 2022

02 Tour, 1993, Gae Aulenti, Manufactured by FontanaArte, Glass; bicycle wheels. Vitra Design Museum

03 Schiaparelli, Look 6 Haute Couture, Spring/Summer 2021. Courtesy of Schiaparelli

04 Mary Katrantzou, Typewriter’ Printed Silk Dress, 2018. Courtesy of Mary Katrantzou

05 Wall plates no. 116 from the series Tema e Variazioni [Theme and Variations], after 1950, Piero Fornasetti, Silk print on porcelain. Fornasetti Archive

06 Hand Chair, about 1962, Pedro Friedeberg, Production this copy: c. 1965, Carved mahogany. Vitra Design Museum

07 Horse Lamp, 2006, Front Design, Manufactured by Moooi BV, Breda /Niederlande, Plastic; metal. Vitra Design Museum

08 Salvador Dalí and Edward James, Mae West’s Lips sofa, c. 1938. Royal Pavilion & Museums Trust, Brighton and Hove. © Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, DACS 2022

09 Man Ray, Ingres’s Violin (Le Violon d’Ingres), 1924. © Man Ray 2015 Trust/DACS, London 2022

10 Porca Miseria!, 2019 edition of 1994 design, Ingo Maurer, Steel; porcelain. Vitra Design Museum