Design Collection

Curator: Marlies Wirth

The MAK Design Collection was established in 2005 and represents a broad spectrum of design output from Austria. The design concept in question encompasses a multifaceted range of aspects, from industrial production and handcrafted manufacture to unique art objects and prototypes, from utility objects and fashion to graphic arts and media design.
A new profile is currently being developed in the interest of making contemporary design—including international stances—permanently visible in the exhibition spaces of the MAK. At issue is the way in which the area of design is to relate to long-established collecting areas, as well as the inclusion of current, process-oriented productions and strategies in an expanded, socially and ecologically committed approach to design which can feature both performative and participatory elements. Viewed in this light, a physical collection of domestic utilitarian wares would seem to be obsolete. Nevertheless, a museum of applied arts functions as memory for a society’s (everyday) cultural production, with the objective of initiating creative thought processes and impulses for positive change.

Everything is design—design is everything

Key objects, those that are helpful in providing support for the development of a collecting strategy oriented toward the future of the museum as such, are in fact those which question their own belonging to the recently created MAK Design Collection—are they design, art, handcrafted items, something else entirely? Constructed using the most diverse materials and techniques and created as part of both “fine” and “applied” practices, such objects either flirt with the previously established collection areas or resist categorization entirely by virtue of their seeming indifference to design, as is the case with the publication Katalog ’98 Samen & Pflanzen [Catalogue ’98 Seeds & Plants], (Mitgliedernachrichten [Member News] No. 1, Schiltern / Langenlois, Lower Austria 1998, Arche Noah, printed book).

“All [human beings] are designers,” for design is the “primary underlying matrix of life,” wrote Victor Papanek in 1971 in Design for the Real World (Pantheon Books), thereby laying the theoretical foundation for a universal conception of design that goes beyond the object fetish to put human beings at the center. Design is an elementary tool and medium with which to both change our environment and effect societal change. The MAK Design Collection unites the most recent strategies aimed at taking on this complex challenge. Be they poetic (as in ibu, 1995, by EOOS / Martin Bergmann, Gernot Bohmann, Harald Gründl), hypothetical (as in Citizen Evolution, 2010, by Jessica Charlesworth and Marei Wollersberger), experimental (as in Grande tête, 2003, by Robert Stadler), playful (as in Ping meets Pong, 2002, by Walking Chair / Fidel Peugeot, Karl Emilio Pircher), or participatory (as in Till You Stop – How Much Is Too Much?, 2010, by mischer’traxler / Katharina Mischer, Thomas Traxler), the methods of and approaches to using design to initiate processes of thought and change, as well as to bring forth a new, sustainability-oriented type of consumption, seem more multi-layered and comprehensive than those which one would at first associate with a design collection.