Extraordinary stories at London’s Design Museum

Extraordinary stories at London’s Design Museum

Launched this week at the Design Museum in London, the exhibition Extraordinary Stories About Ordinary Things proves that behind even the most prosaic of objects lies a fascinating tale.

From the telephone box to the Biro pen, the exhibition gathers a diverse selection of everyday objects taken from the museum’s extensive archive of 20th century design.

’Design isn’t the same as art,’ Design Museum director Deyan Sudjic told as at the opening. ’Art in the gallery context is best left to speak for itself, whereas design needs to have the "why", the "how" and the "who" as part of the story.’

Housed in a grey-stained plywood display system designed by Gitta Gschwendtner, with graphics by Henrik Kubel, the objects - both famous and lesser-known - are organised into six key themes including plastics, national identity, fashion, modernism, collecting and an entire section dedicated to George Carwardine’s iconic Anglepoise lamp.

Stories range from inventor James Dyson’s struggle to find a producer for his revolutionary cyclone vacuum cleaner in the 1980s to the public’s shock at the unveiling of modernist design icons such as Breuer’s ’Cesca’ armchair in the 1930s.

Another more recent but no less remarkable tale is the gifting of over 400 garments to the museum by trustee Lady Ritblat from her own wardrobe. The pieces tell a personal style story through the decades.

Most importantly, the exhibition provides us with a tantalising glimpse of what we can expect to see when the Museum moves to its new home on Kensington High Street in 2015. Renovated by British architect John Pawson, the former Commonwealth Institute’s entire top floor will be dedicated to the museum’s collection of over 3000 pieces of twentieth century design.

For those who cannot wait that long, the museum has launched an iPad Collection App that allows users to browse 59 objects from the collection including the Dyson vacuum, the Thonet chair mould, the British telephone box, the Vespa and more recently, the Kindle.

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