Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design

on until 10 March 2019, Vitra Design Museum

The Vitra Design Museum presents the first large retrospective focussing on the designer, author, and activist Victor J. Papanek (1923–1998). Papanek was one of the twentieth century’s most influential pioneers of a socially and ecologically oriented approach to design beginning in the 1960s. His key work, Design for the Real World (1971), remains the most widely read book about design ever published. In it, Papanek makes a plea for inclusion, social justice, and sustainability – themes of greater relevance for today’s design than ever before. The exhibition includes high-value exhibits such as drawings, objects, films, manuscripts, and prints, some of which have never before been presented. These are complimented by works of Papanek’s contemporaries from the 1960s to 1980s, including George Nelson, Richard Buckminster Fuller, Marshall McLuhan, or the radical design initiative Global Tools. Contemporary works from the areas of critical and social design provide insight into Papanek’s lasting impact.

Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design at the Vitra Design Museum

Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design

Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design at the Vitra Design Museum

Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design at the Vitra Design Museum

Faced with Nazi persecution in Austria, Papanek escaped to the United States in 1939. After pursuing a career as an industrial designer, during the 1960s he developed a critique of consumerism that would make him well known around the world. This position is also reflected in his designs, which he often developed together with his students or collaborators, including televisions and radios for African countries, electric vehicles, as well as the Fingermajig, object designed to stimulate the sense of touch (1965–1970), and the Living Cubes series (1973), user-assembled furniture that could be modified to meet different needs.

Papanek Cover Design for the Real World

Papanek Cover Design for the Real World

Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design at the Vitra Design Museum

Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design at the Vitra Design Museum

Papanek’s true impact, however, is to be found in his work as an author and arbiter of a new and critical understanding of design. He lectured in universities around the world, inspiring generations of students, and tirelessly promoted a wider social debate about design. For example, beginning in 1961 he moderated a television series about design that was broadcast throughout the USA. Alongside his Design for the Real World, which has been translated into over twenty languages, additional books such as How Things Don’t Work (1977) or Design for Human Scale (1983) cemented his reputation as a pioneer of alternative design. In them he used pointed language and humour to criticise a blind belief in consumerism and adapt the ideas of the generation of 1968 to address practical issues of everyday life for a great number of people.

Curators: Amelie Klein (Vitra Design Museum) and Alison J. Clarke (Victor J.Papanek Foundation, University of Applied Arts Vienna)

Visit the Vitra Design Museum website for further information

#VDMPapanek #vitradesignmuseum

Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design at the Vitra Design Museum

The Vitra Design Museum

The Vitra Design Museum

the Vitra Design Museum

The Vitra Design Museum

The Vitra Design Museum

The Vitra Design Museum


Leave a Reply