More spaces needed for design museums

In response to Janice Kirkpatrick’s comments on the new Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow, (Private View, DW 15 March), I too feel strongly that we need fewer art galleries and more spaces that deal with design. The problem is in trying to pin down what curators mean by design and, therefore, the idea of a design museum.

Art galleries are relatively easy to set up because the public will generally be receptive to the artefacts on display, in spite of the knowledge that they can never be physically consumed. Design museums cannot do this, nor should they aspire to. All objects on display are part of a process which is conceptual, physical and, above all, economic; all three elements have to be addressed in any exhibition.

In celebrating the creative and productive skills of designers and makers, a so-called “design museum” would have to reflect on production and consumption; economic and cultural value. Should these be ignored, any potential audience would be limited to those who, like many visitors who go to art galleries, are content in contemplation. The Design Museum in London is, I am afraid, such a place.

In my opinion, any project which proposes the study and display of design needs to drop the word design and find an appropriate term which also acknowledges the ordinary and economic nature of designed artefacts. The public does not recognise that white goods are design, whereas a design student does.

“Design” and “architecture” do not touch all of our lives, whereas washing machines and shopping malls do – there is a difference.

Paul Villeneuve


University of Teesside

Cleveland TS1 3BA

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