Ana Elena Mallet is an independent curator based in Mexico City. She specializes in contemporary design and provided curatorial direction for Destination: Mexico, the latest in the MoMA Design Store’s Destination: Design series, which showcases emerging designers from around the world.
In 1952, Clara Porset, a Cuban designer living in Mexico City, organized an exhibition at the Palace of Fine Arts titled El arte en la vida diaria: objetos de buen diseño hechos en México (Art in everday life: well-designed objects made in Mexico). The exhibition catalogue featured an essay by the prominent archaeologist Alfonso Caso that encouraged manufacturers to “employ artists who are capable of conceiving not only useful but beautiful objects.” To Caso, beautiful objects thoughtfully considered personality, form, color, and decoration in the context of their purpose.
Sixty years later, Mexico is enjoying a renewed enthusiasm for establishing a homegrown design movement that puts Caso’s ideas within a modern framework. In my collaboration with the MoMA Design Store, we discovered a cadre of designers who are putting a stamp of Mexican identity on products that speak to global issues of consumption including accessibility, sustainability, and social responsibility.
Destination: Mexico spotlights locally inspired, sourced, and produced items that speak to the country’s rich design heritage and everyday way of life. Among the highlights of our many discoveries are household objects with familiar shapes but rendered in unexpected materials, furniture that is ingeniously designed for versatility and portability, bold stationery celebrating pop culture iconography, and jewelry fashioned from wire, rubber bands, buttons, and sewing pins. The breadth of offerings reflects the fact that product design in Mexico has always been a hybrid of artisans and industry, the human and the mechanical.