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  • On Design Art

Williams, Gareth, Conference or Workshop, On Design Art at Museums and the Market, Annual conference of the Museums and Galleries History Group, Leeds City Museum, 10-11 Sept 2010. (Unpublished)

Abstract or Description:

This paper looks at the strategies for displaying and collecting so-called Design Art objects by the Victoria and Albert Museum in the 2000s, including a case-study of the exhibition Telling Tales, Fantasy and Fear in Contemporary Design, 2009.

In the mid-2000s the economic and public relations interests of the art market and the media together conspired to create a new descriptive term for a certain type of production: Design Art. This was a self-consciously exclusive type of artefact generated by designers but consumed by the art market. The objects proclaimed their functional potential (as furniture, lighting, vessels etc) and were formally part of design discourse, but they eschewed those functions in favour of their symbolic value, material quality, rarity and connoisseurial caché. Not mass-produced but made in small editions or as unique pieces, these were objects of design acting like works of art.

Markets may be nimble at championing emerging trends, but to enter the canon (and thereby gain fiscal and intellectual value and longevity) objects need the imprimatur of the museum establishment. In the case of Design Art, all debate circulated around the financial value of works, and the instability of the emerging market of collectors during the financial downturn, leading some commentators who pronounced the arrival of Design Art to subsequently proclaim its demise. This volatile, mercantile context is not the intellectual landscape of museum interpretation and in order for these objects to enter the establishment it was necessary to interpret them in different ways, using the techniques of art and design history.

Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W200 Design studies
Creative Arts and Design > W200 Design studies > W260 Furniture Design
Creative Arts and Design > W700 Crafts
School or Centre: School of Design
Date Deposited: 17 Nov 2011 15:41
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2012 10:36
URI: http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/581

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