Expand Your Imagination Visiting ‘Objects of Desire’ at the Design Museum

99
Nacho Carnonell light art (detail) and surrealist works Objects of Desire at Design Museum, London
Nacho Carnonell light art (detail) and surrealist works Objects of Desire at Design Museum, London

Objects of Desire is a visual feast of surrealism currently showing at the Design Museum at 224-238 Kensington High Street, London, W8 6AG until 19th February 2023.

The bold ‘new’ Design Museum (opened in 2016) is in the fashionable heart of the city’s West End and located next to Holland Park. ‘Objects of Desire’ invites visitors to “Delve into the dreamlike relationship between Surrealism and design in this century spanning celebration of surrealist objects of desire curated with Vitra Design Museum.” (1)

The show showcases a theatrical assortment of more than three hundred pieces of surrealist inspired art, fashion and furniture. Vitra is the company that owns the museum and is a successful and established luxury contemporary furniture business, which has been based in London for a long time. Vitra are in an ideal position to curate this exciting ensemble of original surrealist artworks from 1924 and beyond, which tell the story of how this important movement in fine art has evolved and expanded to include and influence fashion, photography, interiors, literary works, poetry and philosophy in the 20th century.

Several cleverly lit dark rooms transport the visitor on a journey that shows how Europeans like Salvador Dali, Man Ray, Rene Magritte, Lee Miller, Leonora Carrington, Andre Breton and Dora Maar have continued to be a source of inspiration for fresh creative work by well known fashion, photography, film and advertising makers and interior designers internationally throughout the 21st century.

To demonstrate how surrealism is still evolving to embrace the latest technology, an ‘out of this world’ artificial intelligence programme artwork is on display by Alexander Mordvintsev that uses Google’s A.I. Dream programme.

We were delighted to find an installation containing a ‘Mae West’ lips sofa and a lobster telephone which are both famous items associated with Salvador Dali’s shocking (for the 1930’s) imaginative and amusing interiors.  An interesting array of diverse works is cleverly combined in a whole multitude of different materials including wood, felt, glass, plastic, wool, paper, paint, leather and glass.

‘Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924 – Today’ describes how surrealism “came to impact design through its questioning of the conventional and its commitment to exploring the mind, unconscious and mystical.” (1) Surrealism includes observing, recording and contemplating the unconscious, violent, sexual and playful aspects of life and the way human beings think.

Sometimes dark and bizarre, sometimes eerie and unexpected and often irreverent, witty and fun this collection is an experience to remember. Surrealism has moved with the times and is still relevant to modern design and this exhibition demonstrates how surrealist art reflects a ‘world gone mad’ in a rather impactful, colourful and usually wonderful way.

This is no coincidence as design magazine Dezeen’s recent interview reveals. ‘Objects of Desire’ curator Kathryn Johnson explains a simple history of surrealism and how it was invented as a new way of thinking prompted by the hardships and “chaos of World War I.” Johnson reminds viewers how the works of Sigmund Freud’s theories were key to the interpretations of the early surrealists and there is even a portrait of Freud drawn by Dali on display, which is one of the show’s highlights.

Freud encouraged “freeing of the mind from rational and utilitarian values and constraints as well as moral and aesthetic judgement” in a process called “psychic automatism” that many surrealists explored in their own ways and materirals. (3)

Kathyrn Johnson describes how in the final room of the exhibition is themed around how “changing ways of thinking can effect changing ways of making.” Focusing on subconscious mark making and ‘automatic drawing’ are techniques employed by surrealist artists to create original designs and unique objects. (2)

If a fabulous exhibition in a central location isn’t enough to tempt art lovers to head to central London, the Design Museum are also offering a soup and toastie lunch with a glass of wine or drink for £14 which is great value for the West End.

Full price tickets are £16.80 which is on the pricy side for many folk this year but they do sell concession tickets from £12 and child tickets from £8. Sister exhibition ‘Weird Sensation Feels Good’ tickets can also be purchased at the same time which allows both events to be attended on the same day, for the special price of £20.

‘Objects of Desire’ is open every day from 10am until 6pm apart from Fridays and Saturdays when they are open until 9pm.

(1) Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924 – Today, Design Museum website, 12 February 2023 Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924 – Today, Design Museum

(2) Objects of Desire exhibition explores “what surrealism is and why it matters now” Dezeen, 12 December 2022 (2) Objects of Desire exhibition explores “what surrealism is and why it matters now” Dezeen, 12 December 2022

(3) Explainer: Surrealism, The Coversation, online magazine, 8 February 2016 Explainer: Surrealism, The Coversation