The Essence of Things

Design and the Art of Reduction
20.03.2010 - 19.09.2010

Good design is when nothing can be added to a design but also nothing can be taken away. This principle has shaped and guided the field of industrial design for over a century. It combines the ideal of rational industrial production with the dream of a good but simple way of life. With today’s dwindling resources, the concentration on the essence of things and the art of reduction have taken on a whole new relevance. In the discussions of sustainability and timelessness, durability and the sparing use of materials constitute important factors. Against this background, the exhibition The Essence of Things explores the many facets of minimalism and demonstrates the highly disparate ways designers have sought to approach the essential: the concentration on functionality, the striving for lightness and transparency, the need for density and compactness or simply meeting the requirements of production and logistics. In search of geometric abstraction and symbolic character, the dialogue with art also regularly provided designers with important impulses and ideas – from De Stijl to organic form up to Donald Judd.
Between “less is more” (Ludwig Mies van der Rohe) and “less but better” (Dieter Rams), the exhibition presents more than 120 objects from over one hundred years of design history. These encompass generic industrial products as well as numerous icons from various eras in the history of chair and lighting design. The icons represented in the exhibition include coffeehouse chairs by Michael Thonet, the Red-Blue Chair by Gerrit Rietveld, the Fauteuil á dossier basculant by Le Corbusier, the Wassily armchair by Marcel Breuer, the Ulm Stool by Max Bill, the Standard Chair by Jean Prouvé, a rocking chair by Frederick Kiesler, models and objects by Charles and Ray Eames, the coffee table IN-52 by Isamu Noguchi, the armchair How High The Moon by Shiro Kuramata, the Side Chair by Frank Gehry, Chair #84/8 by Donald Judd, the Carbon Fiber Chair by Shigeru Ban, Air-Chair by Jasper Morrison up to the MacBook Air by Jonathan Ive. The principle of simplicity is one of the greatest challenges designers can face. This is especially true now in the digital age.

Exhibition tour

14.02.2016 - 01.05.2016, Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa, USA
08.08.2013 - 27.10.2013, Museo de Bellas Artes, Mexico D.F., Mexico
27.04.2012 - 16.09.2012, Grassi Museum, Leipzig, Germany
08.08.2011 - 16.10.2011, Design Museum, Gent, Belgium
09.03.2011 - 26.06.2011, Museum August Kestner, Hannover, Germany
20.03.2010 - 19.09.2010, Vitra Design Museums, Weil am Rhein, Germany