Objects of desire. Surrealism and design 1924 – 2020

From its inception, Surrealism was inspired by design and everyday objects, altering them to make them more fanciful, dreamlike, ironic, terrifying or emotional. Despite this, the impact this artistic movement had on design is as intense as it is unknown. Surrealism encouraged designers to question the reality hiding behind what is visible, to design objects that break from routine and flee from everyday life. This influence extended through all areas of design in the last century: from furniture and interior design, to graphic design, fashion, film and photography.

This exhibition explores the exchange and dialogue in both directions, juxtaposing Surrealist works of art and leading design pieces, and delving into the one of most significant and fertile relationships between art and design in the last 100 years. Objects of desire. Surrealism and design 1924 – 2020 presents a selection of more than 280 pieces including painting, sculpture, objects, posters, magazines, books and photographs, as well as historical films and videos.

Artists and colections

The artists and designers on display include Man Ray, Giorgio de Chirico, Le Corbusier, Salvador Dalí, Leonor Fini, Ray Eames, Carlo Mollino, Gae Aulenti, Achille Castiglioni, Isamu Noguchi or Meret Oppenheim.

Most of the pieces come from the Vitra Design Museum, but also from collections, foundations and museums around the world, such as Fondazione Giorgio e Isa de Chirico, Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation, San Diego Museum of Art, West Den College, Casa Mollino Museum, Fondazione Achille Castiglioni, or Design Museum Den Bosch.

The exhibition is organised by ”la Caixa” Foundation and Vitra Design Museum, with collaboration from the Regional Government of Galicia through the City of Culture of Galicia Foundation and as part of Xacobeo 21-22. It is sponsored by Hugo Boss and supported by Art Mentor Foundation Lucerne.

Exhibition structure

Objects of desire. Surrealism and design 1924 – 2020 is designed around a central core, a space with a dreamlike audiovisual, which unites four thematic areas:

  • Dreams of modernity, focused on exploring Surrealism from the 1920s and its early influence on design, interior design, fashion and film.
  • Image and archetype, which delves into the absurd, confusing and fate, used by Surrealist artists and designers as tools to alter everyday elements and force the limits between reality and fiction.
  • Surrealism and eroticism, which shows the profound mark themes such as love, sexuality or gender roles have left on Surrealist art and many designs that draw from these influences.
  • The savage mind, where you will discover the relationship between ethnography and Surrealism, and also the impact of techniques such as free flow of consciousness or automatic writing.

Curator: Mateo Kries

The exhibition is curated by Mateo Kries, the director of the Vitra Design Museum since 2011. He studied history of art and sociology at Humboldt-University in Berlin and has been working at the Vitra Design Museum since 1995. Since then, Kries has curated many exhibitions and has published numerous books and papers, including books about Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Joe Colombo and Konstantin Grcic and about the social, political and theoretical aspects of design and architecture. 2010 he published the book Total Design in which he critically examines the contemporary perception of design. He is the co-editor of the Atlas of Furniture Design.

Vitra Desing Museum

Vitra Design Museum is one of the most important design museums in the world. Located in the German city of Weil am Rhein, on the Swiss border and close to Basel, the Vitra Design Museum is dedicated to researching and presenting design, exploring its relationship with architecture, art and everyday culture, and has an exclusive collection of furniture, lighting and interior design. Each year, it organises up to ten exhibitions in the main building, by Frank Gehry, as well as other Vitra Campus locations and associated museums around the world.

[Exhibition image: Studio65, Bocca, 1970 © Gufram/Studio65, Foto: Jürgen HANS | Vitra Design Museum]

22 March — 4 August 2024
Tuesday to Sunday | 10 a.m. — 8 p.m.
July 2024 — January 2025
Tuesday to Sunday | 10 a.m. — 8 p.m.