Exhibition — Oct 25, 2014 until Feb 14, 2015

The Stedelijk Museum proudly presents an exhibition in the heart of the design suite featuring its latest acquisitions. Named after a work by Ettore Sottsass, Superbox features a selection of extraordinary designs realized in unusual materials and techniques. The acquisitions encompass a range of design disciplines including graphic and industrial design and applied art.

Devoted to objects acquired since 2010, the exhibit examines the use of special materials and techniques in design. The featured designers pursue very different approaches. Some used labor-intensive craft techniques such as lacquer work while others chose high-tech methods including 3D printing and 3D knitting. Furthermore, many of the designers chose to work with unconventional materials: unusually rough glazes, a sweater made from the wool of a single sheep, or porcelain as the basis of graphic design.

Exhibition highlights

Designed in 1966, the Superbox by Ettore Sottsass is a particularly notable acquisition. Sottsass (1917-2007) designed this cabinet on a plinth as a kind of totem, an object able to stand in the center of a space. 

A special plastic laminate was developed for this design, printed with bold vertical or horizontal stripes in different color combinations. The design foreshadows the postmodern furniture of the Memphis group, which was active in the 1980s – the era in which plastic laminate enjoyed huge popularity.

Also featured are three One Sheep Sweaters (2010) by Christien Meindertsma (1980), each produced using the wool of a single sheep, which accounts for their differences in hue. Merino sheep reared in the Dutch province of North Brabant provided the yarn, which was knitted three-dimensionally (and is thus seamless) and then felted.

Harmen Liemburg (1966) created the design Vogelperspectief (Bird’s Eye View) 2013 for the North metro station, part of the North/South line in Amsterdam. Created as the floor of the platform, he based his design on the different species of birds that populate the station’s vicinity throughout the seasons. The images are made by using a high-pressure water jet machine.

In the late 1990s, Janne Kyttanen (1974) was among the designers who pioneered the use of 3D printing for finished consumer products. Lost Luggage (2014) brings together the experience Kyttanen has since gained. The design contains the “essential” elements of a woman’s wardrobe (including a dress, bag, and sunglasses). If you have the digital file with you – or upload it – the objects can be printed anywhere in the world. The wardrobe is completed by adding color and other components such as lenses for the sunglasses.

In 2004, Patrick Jouin was one of the first designers to produce a 3D-printed chair in one piece. Resembling an unruly forest of gigantic, spiky blades of grass, the object demonstrates the endless possibilities of 3D printing for producing any conceivable shape. Each of Aldo Bakker’s designs is pure form. This is what first strikes us about the Urushi Stool, immediately followed by the technique used and, thirdly, the object’s function. An urushi artist creates the finish, in a painstaking process that involves applying Japanese urushi lacquer in 60 phases. A lengthy process of lacquering, sanding and polishing eventually yields a beautifully smooth, glossy object. Bakker enjoys working with different materials and techniques but leaves the execution to experts who share his eye for perfectionism.

Dutch-trained Evelyn ter Bekke and Dirk Behage founders of the atelier ter Bekke& Behage, work in Paris. In 2011 they were commissioned to create a house style for the newly-renovated Adrien Dubouché Museum in Limoges. The museum, which re-opened in 2012, is dedicated to porcelain. The designers came up with the idea of developing a visual identity based around porcelain letters. Mounted onto iron racks, the letters can be used in a variety of ways both inside and outside the museum. The serial nature of the production method refers to the industrial manufacturing processes used to produce porcelain in this region.

Position of acquisitions in the collection

The Stedelijk Museum’s acquisitions strategy aims to collect a representative overview of work by particular artists and designers, rather than purchasing separate, stand-alone pieces for the collection. The oldest objects in the presentation are designs by Ettore Sottsass: rare ceramics produced in the ’50s, and the Superbox which dates from the ’60s. The Stedelijk Museum was delighted to acquire these important early pieces to augment the extensive Sottsass collection. The museum has also followed the careers of Christien Meindertsma, Aldo Bakker, and Harmen Liemburg; these latest acquisitions represent a valuable addition to the pieces already in our collection. The designs by Patrick Jouin, Janne Kyttanen, and Atelier ter Bekke & Behage are the first to join the design holdings.

The exhibition design is by Eventarchitectuur, Amsterdam.

The Best Dutch Book Designs

The Best Dutch Book Designs opens on October 25 in the gallery adjacent to Superbox

The purchase of Sottsass’ Superbox is made possible by the support of the BankGiro lottery.