One thing is for sure: the ‘Marcel Wanders: Pinned Up’ exhibition now on show in Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (SMA) has spurred the discussion within the design world. WDCD participants will have the opportunity to visit the exhibition Thursday night under the guidance of curator Ingeborg de Roode or project coordinator Roos Hollander.

The retrospective exhibition of the exuberant furniture and interior decorations by Marcel Wanders on the occasion of his 50th birthday was both acclaimed and fiercely criticised. One reviewer spoke of a ‘sensational exhibition’ (Volkskrant), another found the exhibition ‘exemplary for how design can be exhibited in a more thrilling, less static way’ (NRC Handelsblad) and a third named it ‘the best design exhibition I’ve seen in years’ (De Architect).

But opponents say the work of the commercially more than successful designer doesn’t belong in an art museum. ‘It is a chutzpah that Stedelijk Museum lends itself without a critical perspective for what looks most like a trade fair presentation’, professor of Design, Culture and Society Timo de Rijk wrote in De Volkskrant. The museum has lost the way, he added.

Design critic Alice Rawsthorn named Wanders in Frieze Magazine ‘an old-fashioned showman’ whose work ‘does little to enlighten us about the more complex and challenging aspects of design culture that might be expected to concern a museum of the Stedelijk’s stature.’

The critique didn’t come unexpected for SMA’s curator Ingeborg de Roode. ‘While preparing this exhibition we’ve had discussions already,’ she says. ‘In its history, the Stedelijk has never avoided controversy – particularly in the visual arts. Think of Cobra (1949), “Bewogen Beweging” (1961) and Jeff Koons (1992), but also of “Alfa Romeo” in 1995. What surprised me was the fierceness of the reactions and the fact that criticism of the exhibition is coupled to the museum’s policy in general without taking into consideration our other activities in the design field.’

De Roode has no doubts, though. ‘Industrial design is part of our policy for a long time now, and it includes designs for a large public as well. I’m still completely behind Wander’s work and the significance of his work. And we have had a lot of visitors, who were critical at first, but after seeing the exhibition acknowledged the width and the quality of the work, which has nothing to do with a taste for beauty.’

Despite its fierceness, De Roode says she welcomes the discussion and therefore has organized a public debate on the evening of 22 May at the museum for which she invited Timo de Rijk, design critic Chris Reinewald, design historian Marjan Groot, and architecture critic Bernard Hulsman. The evening will be moderated by Jaap Huisman.

But first WDCD-participants who want to make up their minds themselves can take the tour on Thursday evening. Apart from the Wanders exhibition, visitors can also choose to see ‘The Gijs + Emmy Spectacle’ on the fashion and jewellery designs of Gijs Bakker and Emmy van Leersum or the permanent presentation of the museum’s design collection.

Registration on Thursday at WDCD’s information desk in the Stadsschouwburg.

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