From now until 15th June 2014, Stedelijk Museum is showing the works of Dutch designer and architect Marcel Wanders. The exhibition covers his product and interior design, and also architecture. It is split into two main sections; the white zone and the black zone. The exhibition has been put together by Stedelijk Museum curator Ingeborg de Roode.
At the exhibition entrance is a quote from Wanders, informing of his vision to “create an environment of love, life with passion, and make our most exciting dreams come true”. Though arguably his most famous quotation, it is not however the most accurate explanation. Wanders’ work can be seen as a pursuit in the creation of something spontaneous, that is beautiful purely for the sake of beauty. Over the course of his career, he has progressively moved away from functionalism, as stated in interviews.
The White Zone displays his designs over the last 25 years. It is supposed to be a more formal, exhibition style area in which his works are literally ‘pinned up’ to the wall. One recurring theme is the notion of upcycling; reusing exiting forms, techniques or objects to create an original design. In doing so, Wanders views he is giving these elements new life. This is especially noticeable in his product design. An object will contain common elements of minimal and post-modern, however it will also present a clash with rounded and intricate elements seen in traditional design.
One of the first displays is ‘Airborne Snotty Vase’, 2001. These are the result of images taken of airborne mucus, from people with different illnesses. These images were magnified and printed using 3D printing technology, arguably providing an image of an illness. This section shows off architectural/interior design works as well as product design. One piece that stood out was ‘Amsterdam table’, 2000, produced on stainless steel with a city map of Amsterdam etched onto the surface. This work displays Wanders fascination with the object surface, also referred to as the ‘skin’.
It is not, however, a great place to bring small children. At one point a child started moving and playing with an item of furniture while the rest of the gallery crowd looked on, shocked and concerned.
The final impression of the White Zone is that Wanders is no doubt talented as an artist, in creating new and original objects. However this does not translate well to his interior design, as there is arguably no restraint or control counterpoint. Each of the objects is different and calls for attention. When applied to interior design each element seems to fight for attention, and there is conflict. One of the principles of home or office is that a space can be lived or worked within. However no calm space is possible with such conflict present.
The Black Zone is intended to be more personal, and explores the relationship between objects, videos, sound and space. There is immediately a different, dark and personal feeling. The first work which sticks out is ‘German Room’, 2011-2013, part of the ‘Virtual Interiors’ digital video collection. The work evokes a clash between fantasy elements in a cold post-modern setting.
The vision behind ‘One Minute Sculptures’, 2004, was the one minute time limit would allow for a spontaneous and unique design. It is an interesting concept, though why he then decided to glaze them with gold remains unanswered. Progressing through the Black Zone, the designs become progressively extravagant and, as argued by one guest, kitsch. Wanders himself did not view kitsch as something negative, he viewed it as honest as it represents spontaneity. There is arguably use of some extravagant and expensive methods, such as 3D printing, or materials, such as gold glazing.
The predominant element of the Black Zone is Pivot Point, a revolving head with two faces and white tulips for hair. One face represents the western face and the other represents the eastern. It evokes elements of the cyberpunk genre, it feels as though the object is about to open its mouth and talk in a cold, robotic voice. The Black Zone offers a more personal insight into Wanders, however it feels less accessible. Especially the ‘Swarovski Crystal Palace’, 2008, a mosaic that utilises Aqua Jewels, crystal tiles made by Swarovski. It flaunts extravagance and is alienating, especially in a post 2008 world where inequality is an increasingly important issue. Progressing through the exhibition, you ask yourself whether the extravagance is necessary for the design, or whether it is merely vanity. At the end of the Black Zone is a digital video work of a woman being used as a lampshade. A woman has literally been turned into an object, and can be seen as a sexist and alienating work. You are left to question why the woman needed to be naked and wearing high heels for design reasons.
At the end is ‘Moniker – Your line or mine’, an opportunity to contribute by scanning your version of the dot-to-dot drawing and ‘take part in the animation’. The drawings are to be used together in a film. The final section is the art decoration lounge, which is a reconstruction of his publicity photos from his label Moooi since 2002.
Stedelijk Museum is open daily from 10am to 6pm, and on Thursdays from 10am to 10pm. Admission is €15 for adults, €7,50 for students and those with the Cultural Youth Pass (CJP). It is free for children and youth (18 and younger), teachers with Docentenpas Stedelijk Museum, and holders of the following cards; Museumkaart, ICOM, Stadspas, Iamsterdam City Card, Holland Pass, Members Stedelijk Museum, Members Vereniging Rembrandt.
For more information on hours and admission; Click here.
For more information on the Marcel Wanders exhibition; Click here.