Good design is a timeless concept, exemplified best by an object that is soundly manufactured and beautiful, works efficiently for its purposes, and suggests ideas that transcend its form and function. Beyond these criteria, at various moments in history quality of design has been defined within parameters unique to the time. Ours are times of concern and awareness. Fueled by a spreading preoccupation with the environment and other social and political issues, today's design is valued for its economy, simplicity, and sensibility. Designers have embraced this stimulating intellectual exercise and have begun to produce objects that are durable, reusable, and practical. Contemporary design is experimental in its use of materials and is often inspired by genuine necessity. Still, it sustains elements of surprise and deep intellectual beauty, because it relies more on invention than on the elaboration of styles.
Examples of these trends can be found all over the world, but a group of designers from the Netherlands has in recent years responded to current expectations with a unanimity that merits particular attention. Many of them celebrate ingenuity and economy in their work, transforming these qualities into a coherent minimalist aesthetic. The objects they design are so visually spare as to look "poor"an illusion reflected neither in the manufacturing process, nor in the retail price. These products, with their recycled pieces and mechanistic compositions, often look industrial, yet in reality they are frequently handcrafted and made in very limited series. These Dutch designers represent the expressionistic and extremist wave of a more general global trend, and an exhibition of their work is a way to address some crucial issues in contemporary design.Paola Antonelli
Department of Architecture and Design
This exhibition is made possible by a generous grant from The Mondriaan Foundation, Amsterdam. Additional support has been provided by The Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art.
The full text of this essay is available.
©1997 The Museum of Modern Art, New York