Curator's Statement

Mateo Kries, Director of the Vitra Design Museum
and curator of the exhibition »Objects of Desire:
Surrealism and Design 1924 – Today«


The exhibition »Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924 – Today« is highly topical, showing that design is much more than a specialist service; it is also a field for utopias, critical statements, and speculative alternatives to the status quo. And that is precisely what the Surrealists were striving for: to change our reality by creating radically subjective art that relentlessly explores the human psyche and questions social mores. Today more than ever, designers are taking up the challenge of our conflict-ridden times by examining their own role in society. At the same time, there has been a resurgence of interest in the surreal – in a reality that exists beyond our familiar and habitual world. This is reflected in works of Critical Design, for instance by Dunne & Raby, but also in an occasionally subversive handling of new technologies.

Taking the current situation as its starting point, the exhibition develops a sweeping panorama of the interactions between Surrealism and design over the past 100 years. While the significance of this dialogue between art movement and design has been grossly underrated, it influenced postwar designers such as Carlo Mollino and the protagonists of Italian Radical Design and has had a visible impact on many works of postmodern design. Gender has been an important topic, and Surrealist artists like Meret Oppenheim and Leonor Fini, who exposed established gender stereotypes in daily life, were an inspiration for many designers.

On the one hand, the exhibition provides a new reading of Surrealism, showing how the movement reached far beyond the boundaries of art to influence people’s daily lives. On the other, it presents a highly topical view of contemporary design and reveals an important source of its inspiration. In this light, the readymades of Marcel Duchamp, the enigmatic painted worlds of Salvador Dalí and René Magritte take on a renewed sense of relevance.

Duration of the exhibition: 28.09.2019 – 19.01.2020

Find more information here.

Dunne & Raby, Designs for an overpopulated planet: Foragers, 2009; Photo: Jason Evans
Meret Oppenheim, Gloves (Parkett Edition, no. 116/150), 1985; Courtesy of Ursula Krinzinger, photo: Jasha Greenberg, copyright for the works of Meret Oppenheim: © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019
Carlo Mollino, Arabesco, 1950 © Vitra Design Museum, photo: Jürgen HANS