Thorsten van Elten slams Culturelabel brief

Nascent online cultural products retailer Culturelabel has come in for criticism from design champion Thorsten van Elten, following the launch of a competition to find new designs to sell on its website and in international museum shops.

The competition, titled Release 1.0, hopes to inspire ‘fresh, new museum- or galleryshop products with style, panache and ingenuity’ that steer away from mugs and branded stationery.

The products will be sold at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts, the London and Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin and La Triennale di Milano. A Culturelabel spokeswoman calls the competition ‘an ethical, whitelabel equivalent for designers that is about patronising design’.

But Release 1.0 has attracted criticism from the former SCP buyer and champion of emerging creative talent van Elten for not paying winners a flat fee. Instead, designers will receive 7 per cent of sales. ‘I sell a lot of stuff to the Design Museum so I feel it is a bit insulting to say museum shop products aren’t good enough. I want to see the results [of the competition]. I don’t see what they are going to come up with. There should be an additional prize to make it a bit more of an incentive,’ says van Elten.

Culturelabel will pay for the manufacture of products and will register every entry for copyright on behalf of the designers at no cost. But van Elten says, ‘This is not much of a competition – you will not see the royalties from sales for quite a long time, at least a year.’

‘Culturelabel and this competition were founded by designers and artists to support and showcase new talent,’ argues the spokeswoman.

‘We are providing exposure to an audience they might find it difficult to access otherwise.’ Release 1.0 has lined up judges including London Design Festival director Ben Evans, Tate Modern acquisitions board member Frances Raynolds and Design Miami director Ambra Medda for the competition.

Culturelabel says it will accept old product designs as well as those created in response to the competition. There are three categories: products up to £2, £15 and £50. Entrants are asked to submit visuals by 20 October.

Products are scheduled to launch at museums and galleries in February 2009.

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