Common Roots at the Design Museum Holon, Israel
Dr Kathy Battista Director of Contemporary Art at Sotheby's Institute NY on an inventive show of cutting edge industrial design from the Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia
Just outside Tel Aviv, Ron Arad’s Design Museum Holon, which opened in 2010, is a sculptural building that effortlessly integrates indoor and outdoor spaces. Constructed of concentric rings of corten steel with a tonal range of patinas, the building’s exuberant exterior will evolve over time due to the elements. This is typical of Arad’s use of unexpected materials and playful approach to design. A dynamic curatorial program led by Galit Gaon presents developments in both international and Israeli design. Last year’s Yoshi Yamamoto exhibition permeated every space in the museum, including its Design Lab and outdoor atrium.
The current exhibition Common Roots: Design Map of Central Europe presents cutting edge industrial design from countries in this region, which has expanded in conception in recent history. The curators embraced this broader definition of Central Europe when selecting the participating nations: Poland, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are all included in the exhibition. Indeed, Common Roots finds an appropriate context in Israel, which is largely a diaspora of inhabitants that trace back to the region.
The show is organized in two parts: in the lower gallery, the ‘Past’ section features the period following World War II from 1945 – 1989, while upstairs ‘Present’ focuses on the post-Communist generation of designers. These are organised by both national and thematic orientation in a coherent and flawless exhibition plan. Both levels contain a variety of design objects, from furniture and toys to jewelry and industrial design. Classics such as Peter Ghyczy’s Egg Chair from 1968 remind us of the important creative legacy of this region. More recent pieces include Arek Wolski’s humorous and irreverent mirrors and jewelry (2010/1), as well as Svjetlana Despot’s Hula Hula chair (2010), comprised entirely of recycled nylon stockings. These highlights are but a few of the many noteworthy pieces that remind the viewer of the tremendous talent found in the region today.
While the exhibition includes all functional design objects, there are some whimsical pieces on display. For example, 3D Wallpaper by Slovakian designer Studio Pirsc Porcelain (Daniel Pirsc) takes the form of ceramic aeroplanes that punctuate the wall – not unlike frogs on a pond. Phaidon’s favourites were the Laloushka Dolls by Marta Hryniak, who hails from Slovakia. These handmade dolls remind one of toys made at the beginning of the twentieth century rather than the twenty-first; however, the three women they embody—fashion designers Vivienne Westwood, Coco Chanel, and Donatella Versace—are anything but antiquated. The Versace figure boasts wild curly hair and a sequin jumpsuit cut down to the naval and Chanel dons her signature sailor stripes and trousers. These small pieces encapsulate the show as a whole: the approach to objects evolves over time, but ingenuity and playfulness abide, and the most ingenious designs encompass the best of both past and the present. Do check it out if you’re in the area but be quick, it's not on for much longer. If you're interested in the work of Ron Arad check out our fine book on him in the store now and for a general overview of contemporary industrial design you really should check out Spoon available in a limited edition distinctive, steel cover.