From 29 November 2021, Dutch designer Bas van Beek exhibits new and existing work in the Wolfsonian–Florida International University (FIU) museum, Miami Beach. The exhibition Shameless is Van Beek's American debut and coincides with Miami Art Week. As coordinator of the Dutch contribution to the project, Het Nieuwe Instituut is compiling the brochure that will accompany the exhibition.
Het Nieuwe Instituut's General and Artistic Director Aric Chen adds: “We are pleased to contribute to an exhibition that rethinks design history by adding new perspectives and alternative storylines. After all, that is also the core of what we do, as an archive institution that focuses on contemporary knowledge production.”
Bas van Beek is known for the dynamic way in which he manipulates historical design and gives it new meaning. He disregards traditional boundaries between 'old' and 'new' design, but transforms familiar and admired artefacts - often with an ironic or teasing wink - into fresh, contemporary design. Van Beek is fascinated by the richness and versatility of what already exists. He gives a current twist to existing forms, applications and meanings and playfully elaborates on the work of the artists and designers who have gone before him.
For the Wolfsonian, this project with Van Beek is the most recent instalment in a series in which the museum invites contemporary artists and designers to their own interpretation to the historic building and collection.
It was exciting to come across so many pieces in the museum's depot that feel more contemporary than Modern, such as Wilhelm Poetter's design drawings, which form the basis of the new series of tapestries I created especially for the Wolfsonian. They look as if there's a computer glitch in them."
Fragments and objects from recent Dutch exhibitions
Het Nieuwe Instituut's role
Bas van Beek approached Het Nieuwe Instituut to help coordinate the Dutch elements of the Shameless project and to play a role in articulating its essence. The institute has taken on this coordinating task based on the role that it plays in the internationalisation of the Dutch design field, in which the creation and stimulation of network and exchange are central, in addition to constructing a platform for ideas and designers.
Het Nieuwe Instituut responds to this second issue on the basis of the project that it has been shaping as of this year: the Network Archives Design and Digital Culture. Design heritage in the Netherlands is scattered among a series of larger and smaller (private) archives and museums. However, the major task – the management and preservation of these collections – requires a substantial investment and we have not yet reached that point. The aim of NADD is therefore to first make these collections visible, findable and usable by giving assignments, starting collaborations and forming a network. The aim is not so much to arrive at a single central design archive, but rather to investigate how a decentralised collection can be accessed centrally. Shameless fits very well into this ambition. Not only does Van Beek make various design collections and archives visible, he also uses them, reinterprets designs, reworks them using contemporary techniques, and stimulates ideas about all this among students in The Hague and Miami.
The Speculative Design Archive
In 2018, Het Nieuwe Instituut responded to a sense of urgency in the sector with the Speculative Design Archive exhibition.
In the absence of a central national collection, how could the Dutch design and digital cultural heritage be saved from oblivion? Who keeps what? And why and how?
The exhibition emphasised the richness and variety of a potential future design archive and imagined the guises it could take. The Speculative Design Archive gave the visitor a glimpse into the drawers and storage areas of organisations such as V2_ and Droog, companies such as Vlisco and Artifort, as well as various designers, including Wim Gilles, Kho Liang Ie, Cubic3 Design, Lust, Geert Lap and Hella Jongerius.
Due to the inventive spatial and graphic design of the exhibition and the well-considered selection of archive collections, the design archive acted on various levels as a catalyst for a conversation about the added value of a consultable memory of Dutch design. Eye-catching objects introduced the interested museum visitor to the underexposed world of prototypes, sketches and material studies, while design and archive professionals were confronted with the complexity of fragmented collection, management, preservation and disclosure policies – and a possible lack of coordination. The exhibition was a prelude to the Network Archives Design and Digital Culture (NADD), a partnership of heritage institutions, museums, educational and cultural institutions, knowledge institutes, designers, governments and other partners, in which Het Nieuwe Instituut plays a coordinating role.
In three floors, the installation of the Speculative Design Archive followed the entire process from acquisition and storage, past appraisal and cataloguing to a showroom where the material was provided with various interpretations. Several curators chose a specific archive and their own presentation form for their reading of the archive. The various presentation models showed how new imaginings can be created, new stories can be told and new meanings uncovered from the archive material supplied by Droog, Richard Hutten, Bas van Beek, Cubic 3 Design and others.
The Speculative Design Archive was realised in collaboration with a versatile network of formal and informal archives, archive creators and custodians and various heritage institutions. For the selection of archives, the team of Het Nieuwe Instituut collaborated with design historian Job Meihuizen.
Bas van Beek in Speculative Design Archive
In Speculative Design Archive, Van Beek showed a spatial dialogue between pieces that match his method of ‘archiploitation’. He never starts with a blank sheet of paper, but embroiders on what already exists. Appropriating and transforming other people's designs is essential to him, a strategy to question the status of heritage and a way to let this heritage live on and acquire new meaning. This was shown in the Speculative Design Archive in fabrics inspired by designs from the Bauhaus and the Wiener Werkstätte, hexagonal cups and saucers after a design that Frank Lloyd Wright made for the American expansion of Glasfabriek Leerdam and the tea set Missing Link, Van Beek's ceramic revival of a 1924 Berlage service in pressed glass that Het Nieuwe Instituut exhibits in the museum villa Sonneveld House.
The accompanying brochure provides the (American) public context for Bas van Beek's work and examines in more detail the way in which design heritage is dealt with at the various Dutch institutions involved. An article is also devoted to the collaboration between architect Frank Lloyd Wright and director of the Glasmuseum Peter Cochius in the 1920s. The role of client that museums fulfil is discussed in an article about house styles. With contributions from: Frederike Huygen, Charles Esche, Jan de Bruin and Maartje Brattinga. Graphic design: Geke Zaal.
Shameless is made possible by Creative Industries Fund NL; Dr. David and Linda Frankel; Het Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam; the Mondriaan Fund; Dutch Culture USA program by the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York; George Lindemann Jr.; and the Netherland-America Foundation.