A look back at glasses

A new show at Design Museum Holon examines the history of spectacles through one remarkable collection
Share
A selection of glasses from Overview at Design Museum Holon. Image courtesy of Design Museum Holon
A selection of glasses from Overview at Design Museum Holon. Image courtesy of Design Museum Holon

At what point does a series of family heirlooms become a collection of cultural importance? Probably around the point currently occupied by Claude Samuel’s glasses. The Tel Aviv optometrist’s trove of antique spectacles, the earliest of which date from the seventeenth century, are currently on display at Design Museum Holon’s eye glasses exhibition, Overview.

 

A pair of safety aluminium and rubber safety goggles from the 1960s used for welding Image courtesy of Design Museum Holon
A pair of safety aluminium and rubber safety goggles from the 1960s used for welding Image courtesy of Design Museum Holon

Samuel’s grandmother sold corrective glasses as a wandering market trader in Paris during the 1930s, and his father worked on eyewear for Pierre Cardin. Items from these family bequests are on display at the museum, though Samuel’s collection also includes antique diagnostic equipment, monocles, opera glasses, fans with lenses embedded into their fronds, and even Inuit snow goggles fashioned from bone.

The lower gallery of the famous design museum expands on Samuel’s offerings, with items from the museum’s own permanent collection displayed in order to examine spectacles’ place within the greater sweep of product design. There’s even a virtual-reality installation, as well as a workshop space, where visitors can take broken glasses and remake them into new pairs.

 

Protective eyewear for railway workers. Photo: Eli Bohbot. Image courtesy of Design Museum Holon
Protective eyewear for railway workers. Photo: Eli Bohbot. Image courtesy of Design Museum Holon

While the show may attract those interested in bygone fashions, Overview also presents glasses as ever-improving technological implements that, in attempting to correct the wearer’s ocular defects, simultaneously draw attention to the wearer’s visual deficiencies.

Of course, corrective eye surgery and contact lenses mean many of us who once wore glasses no longer sport them. So Samuel’s collection looks set to grow in importance when this somewhat overlooked aspect of product design is no longer right in front of our faces.

 

A pair of Inuit snow goggles fashioned from bone. Image courtesy of Design Museum Holon
A pair of Inuit snow goggles fashioned from bone. Image courtesy of Design Museum Holon

For more on product design, from the earliest industrial goods through to the iMac get The Design Book.


You May Also Like


Related




ABOUT PHAIDON

Phaidon is the premier global publisher of the creative arts with over 1,500 titles in print. We work with the world's most influential artists, chefs, writers and thinkers to produce innovative books on art, photography, design, architecture, fashion, food and travel, and illustrated books for children. Phaidon is headquartered in London and New York City.
Read more