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The exhibition ‘Design in Rotterdam. 25 Years City Collection’ illustrates the city’s outspoken character through highlights from the museum’s design collection. The objects on display were designed over the past 25 years for or in Rotterdam, including lamps by Henk Elenga, the ‘Random Chair’ by Bertjan Pot, and furniture from the ‘89’ collection by Joep van Lieshout.
The objects are grouped into five themes: Big, Forward, Minimal, Do and Individual. Each theme represents a particular aspect of Rotterdam’s character and together they tell the story of design developments in the city over the past 25 years. To underline the connection with Rotterdam, the objects are accompanied by poems read by Rotterdam-based poets such as Jules Deelder and Rien Vroegindeweij. The rhythms and images of these poems elucidate the qualities of the collection.
‘Big’ typifies the designs created in Rotterdam in the late 1980s and 1990s. Rotterdam’s ambition was to become an international and cosmopolitan city. Many designers and architects became fascinated by metropolitan culture and attempted to represent it. The exhibition includes the first issues of the magazine ‘Hard Werken’ and a drawing by Rem Koolhaas and Madelon Vriesendorp, ‘The Arrival of the Floating Pool’, which depicts the miraculous achievements of architecture in the big city.
‘Forward’ includes work by Rotterdam-based designers and artists who reject all established notions. It is a characteristic of a city that no longer has a classic centre. Rotterdammers survive by not relating to the past. The ‘89’ collection by Joep van Lieshout is a series of sculptures that the artist presented in 1989 as a collection of furniture in standard sizes and colours. In this way his artworks undermined the prevailing norms in the art world.
‘Do’ is another of Rotterdam’s characteristics. Standing up for yourself was the driving force of Rotterdam’s Punk and New Wave scenes in the 1970s and 1980s. This stance remains at the centre of the city’s cultural life. Experimenting with new materials and self-production results in new products. This section includes the ‘Excavated Vase’ by Bertjan Pot, the Bellflower by Studio Wieki Somers, and a cast-resin cabinet by Vincent de Rijk.
‘Minimal’ is a characteristic we see in Rotterdam’s need to be clear and pithy. This is evident not only in the Functionalist architecture of the early twentieth century but also in current designs, including Chris Kabel’s ‘Wood Ring’ (2010): by cutting wedge-shaped sections from a straight beam, the wooden elements form a perfect ring.
‘Individual’ shows how the uniformity of the city awakens the desire to make your own voice heard. As a melting pot of different cultures, in Rotterdam this voice is highly diverse. Since the 1990s designers such as Hella Jongerius, Jurgen Bey and Christien Meindertsma have been telling their highly personal stories, such as the provenance of the materials in ‘Urchin Pouf’, a new idea about modern working in ‘EarChair’, or the quest for an individual signature in industrial production in the ‘Worker’ chair by Hella Jongerius.
Atelier Van Lieshout, Bas van Beek, Chris Kabel, Gerard Hadders, Rem Koolhaas, Henk Elenga, Joep van Lieshout, Jan Konings, Jongeriuslab, MNO, Richard Hutten, Studio Bertjan Pot, Studio Makkink & Bey, Ton Haas, Tomá Libertíny.
Bas van Beek, Catelijne van Middelkoop, Chris Kabel, Helmut Smits, Hard werken, Marcel Wanders, Studio Wieki Somers, Vincent de Rijk, Victor Mani.