From slick, urban furniture and rat-gnawed wallpaper to delicate leaf ceramics and wave shaped walls of lighting, Beauty and the Beast explores the intriguing duality of contemporary Swedish design. Beauty and the Beast is the Crafts Council’s first major exhibition of Swedish design and brings together 25 of the most innovative and influential designers working in furniture, lighting, glass, ceramics, silver and textiles.
Divided into two starkly contrasting themes - Heaven and the Underworld - the exhibition takes the visitor on an unexpected journey, from a world of intense whiteness and purity into the realm of colourful fantasy.
The visitor's journey begins in Heaven, where pure colours, reduced forms and natural materials dominate. Illustrating the extreme simplicity and seductive austerity of Swedish design, the exhibits in this section range from columns of green Bamboo glasses by Angelica Gustafsson to the seamless wooden Sacred Boxes of Jonas Lindvall. Highlighting the passionate impulses underlying the veneer of Swedish restraint, Ingegerd Råman’s luminous White Frost vases radiate a mystical aura.
In contrast the Underworld exposes Beauty’s alter ego, the Beast. This part of the exhibition reveals an inclination towards introspection, melancholia and humour, which has gradually come to the fore in Swedish design. Provocative young designers such as Thomas Bernstrand, Matti Klenell and Anders Ljungberg champion this alternative approach, along with radical, offbeat groups such as Front and Uglycute. Exhibits range from hairy ceramic vessels and tattooed furniture to deranged lamps, challenging accepted notions of beauty, functionalism and good taste.
With work by both flourishing mid-career designers and exciting emergent practitioners, Beauty and the Beast provides a unique opportunity for UK audiences to explore the complexities and subtleties of the design scene in Sweden today. Introducing much work never before seen in the UK, Beauty and the Beast shatters our one-dimensional view of Swedish design, bringing deeper insights and more meaningful appreciation.
Beauty and the Beast is curated by Lesley Jackson, a freelance writer, curator and design historian and will tour to the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, from February 2005.
The Crafts Council Gallery Shop, Flow, Vessel and Skandium will be holding satellite exhibitions of contemporary Swedish design to coincide with Beauty and the Beast.