From Thonet to Dutch Design, 125 years of living at the Stedelijk

From Thonet to Dutch Design, 125 years of living at the Stedelijk  

The Stedelijk presents an extensive selection of design from its world-class collection. The show features over 300 objects that over the past 125 years—were landmarks of design innovation and excellence. Visitors are invited to explore design history, from a Thonet bench, one of the oldest pieces in the collection, to acclaimed designs by the Wiener Werkstätte, the Amsterdam School, Scandinavian design, the advent of plastics in the ‘60s, the colourful Italian Memphis designs of the ‘80s, and the successful school of Dutch design, which emerged in the ‘90s.


The show spotlights work by renowned and ground-breaking designers such as Michael Thonet, Gerrit Rietveld, Charlotte Perriand, Verner Panton, Ettore Sottsass, Hella Jongerius, Marcel Wanders, and Patrick Jouin. Also highlighted are current topics such as sustainability and the impact of the corona crisis on the Dutch design world. And there’s a treat in store… you may sit on certain pieces of furniture, like Richard Hutten’s Crossing Italy sofa.

Curator Ingeborg de Roode also chose to include relatively unknown gems by celebrated designers: 

“I think it’s exciting to broaden the scope a little, for instance by highlighting other Rietveld chairs, rather than his iconic Red and Blue Chair. Produced during the war from almost a single sheet of material, Rietveld’s Aluminium Chair was incredibly innovative because he intended it to be produced in a different material, in one go, anticipating the potential plastics would offer later. Research reveals that we have the prototype in our collection. And in addition to the well-known Scandinavian design - light, wood, organic forms - I selected a-typical, almost baroque pieces, such as an armchair made of sprayed polyurethane foam by Gunnar Aagaard Andersen. It’s a way for us to see design movements we think we know, from an entirely fresh perspective.”

— Curator Ingeborg de Roode 

Among the items of furniture, the backbone of the collection, there are relatively few pieces by women designers. Ingeborg de Roode: “That’s why I’m excited that nearly 20% of the objects in the exhibit were created by women, such as the amazing graphic work by the Dutch designer Bertha Bake, a chair by Charlotte Perriand from the ‘50s, a hobbyhorse by Gloria Caranica and a bench and matching table by the Danish designer Nanna Ditzel. This also gives us a chance to present a slightly more diverse view of design history.” 


The Stedelijk staged its first exhibition devoted to the design of children’s toys and furniture in 1965: Kinderspel (Child’s Play). Since then, children’s design has been a key part of the design collection. The exhibit includes a large gallery dedicated to design for children, with work by Charles & Ray Eames, Victor Vasarely, Enzo Mari and Ineke Hans. This space also features a special design: the Stedelijk and HMC, Amsterdam’s craft and design college, jointly launched a competition inviting students to design a piece of furniture for children aged between 2 and 6. 25 hopefuls submitted designs, and the winner was student Rosa Kosto; her De Crux design consists of stools that children can sit on, and move in a grid to make their own configuration.  


The exhibition ends with contemporary themes such as sustainability, inclusion and the democratisation of design. The Scrapwood Cupboard by Piet Hein Eek from 1990, an early example of sustainable material use, is now a widely imitated international design classic. Eek pioneers the more sustainable use of raw materials. Jesse Howard's open design is very democratic: his downloadable (digital) files are blueprints you can follow to make your own household appliances using materials from the hardware store. 


The gallery devoted to Dutch design also looks at how the corona crisis has impacted the world of design in the Netherlands. Ingeborg de Roode: “We’d already planned on looking at the current position of Dutch designers in the creative industry. Then came the corona crisis. Together with BNO, the professional association for Dutch designers, we conducted a survey on the impact of corona and presented the initial results. And of course, partly digitally, we’re also displaying designs that respond to this crisis.


There is an audio tour available for this exhibition. Grab one for free at the museum or listen to it online before your visit. 


The Stedelijk invited artist-designer Bas van Beek to advise on the interior and add a contemporary twist. He responded with a number of special interventions, playing with ‘quotes’ from design classics. Bas van Beek blended references to historical designs by Dagobert Peche (Wiener Werkstätte), K.P.C. de Bazel (Nieuwe Kunst), Lambertus Zwiers (Amsterdam School) and Nathalie du Pasquier (Memphis) into new wallcoverings and animations that evoke a unique mood in every gallery.


The Stedelijk Museum has been exhibiting furniture and other designs for the interior for almost 125 years. The Stedelijk has an internationally renowned collection of modern design of over 50,000 items, comprising applied art and industrial and graphic design. The Stedelijk first hosted design exhibitions in 1895, shortly after its inception, and began actively collecting design in 1934. Particular highlights of the collection include the Amsterdam School, Scandinavian design, Italian postmodern Memphis design, Dutch design and furniture produced through the early use of new techniques such as 3D printing. The museum is also home to an extensive collection of Rietveld furniture that features many unique pieces.


1) Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Photografie: Peggy Janssen, styling: Heidi Willems - PURE styling, 2) Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Photografie: Peggy Janssen, styling: Heidi Willems - PURE styling , 3) Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Photografie: Peggy Janssen, styling: Heidi Willems - PURE styling , 4) Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Photografie: Peggy Janssen, styling: Heidi Willems - PURE styling

25 juli 2020 / 12 september 2021
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