I'll Take Manhattan: Vintage Ikea On Exhibit In Munich


The Neue Sammlung design museum in Munich has organized the first [??] exhibition of the history of Ikea design. The idea of vintage Ikea fascinates me, and not just for the incongruity of it. Alright, mostly for the incongruity of it.

"Democratic design" and "beauty for everyman!" have a nice, if slightly messianic ring to them, but the reality of Ikea's cheap furniture is often that it doesn't last, doesn't get preserved--by design. That Spike Jonze Ikea ad about how it's crazy to cry for the lamp that gets thrown away, even though it still works? Obsolescence and replaceability are baked into Ikea's strategy as surely as the ruthlessly unsentimental winnowing of any designs that don't perform as well over time. Or that get too expensive to produce and thus get replaced by some sawdust&resin replica with a fatter profit margin.

To the extent that history is nostalgia, it just doesn't exist in Ikeaworld. So there's no way the company would keep making the totally solid-looking, mid-century Scandinavian all-wood product like Bengt Ruda's 1960 Manhattan cabinet; it's just not in their DNA.

Still, there's a history there--and no doubt many interesting design stories and inspirations--to be had. I'd like to see more Ikea scholarship, frankly. And I'd like to see more vintage Ikea design; it can't all have been thrown away, can it? Wouldn't it be a riot if someone licensed some of Ikea's original designs, which can't be mass produced at Ikea's price/profit point anymore, and brought them back into small-scale production? Anyone?

Democratic Design - IKEA runs through July 12 die-neue-sammlung.de via atelier]
Stylepark's a little snobby-cranky, but they have a lot of pictures [stylepark]
A couple of nice flickr sets here and here, though the exhibit looks a little PR-y. [flickr]

Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

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