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sights & culture

Global dialogue underscores contemporary creations at Design Without Borders 2021

The historic church interior of the Kiscelli Museum is always a pleasure to visit, especially for the annual Design Without borders exhibition such as the current one, with artefacts by some 160 creators from 16 countries on display. Running until the end of November, the event has been developing over several years and is now of the most significant of its kind in the region. Issues focus on the changing role of small communities, sustainability and the integration of ancient techniques into modern aesthetics. Documentation is in English and Hungarian.

Approached through autumn colours, the church space of the Kiscelli Museum, with its lavish high ceilings and unique atmosphere, provides wonderful surroundings whatever the occasion. This is particularly true in the case of design exhibitions, as the museum building was once owned by the Viennese furniture manufacturer Miksa Schmidt, actively involved in so many Art Nouveau creations of the day.

Of course, it’s perfect for Design Without Borders, with works from 16 countries this year. The exhibition is extremely complex, both in terms of material and related applications, as well as a great forum for designers and creatives to meet.

For visitors, it presents a unique opportunity to see initiatives from different countries at the same time. The exhibition is now also an all-arts festival – in addition to curated guided tours, contemporary music and dance performances enrich the agenda.

The focus is on the broad interpretation of design and its different approaches. The artefacts provide an exciting testimony to the interplay between each branch of art, the fine and applied arts, the visual and the performing arts.

The exhibition is divided into several parts. In the middle of the main space, Future of Living presents a selection of the latest Slovenian design, in front of which are displayed the textile design artefacts of TEXHIBITION, while the back space has been allocated to a wonderful selection of contemporary jewellery.

The Unlimited Design Award has also been presented at the exhibition since 2014. Entering the apse, you can take a look at the Medusa lamps, one of this year’s winners, by Polish firm KABO & PYDO. The lamp collection made of bent wire evokes archetypal forms but it can also fit into a wide range of spaces, a breakthrough concept.

In these surroundings, works by several design giants are shown, chairs by the venerable Yrjö Kukkapuro, which gave fresh impetus to Finnish design, and the colourful works of textile designer Erja Hirvi for Marimekko. She gained acclaim thanks to her colourful personality and projects focusing on small communities.

From here, you continue into the church space, where a desk designed and created by Miksa Schmidt, the founder of the collection, represents the history of the Kiscelli Museum.

This is followed by the creations of furniture designer Helena Dařbujánová, the light chests of drawers in her Suzanne collection, and by Jiří Krejčiřík, inspired by Czech Art Nouveau, which tell their own story.

Alongside, several exciting objects point towards the future, one of recycling, novel materials and 3D objects from printed matter. Look out for the aromatic lamp made of orange peel produced by the food industry, the material used as a by-product of brewing, and a 3D-printed object dreamed up by acclaimed Welsh designer Ross Lovegrove and Oscar-winning costumier Julia Koerner.

On the other side of the hall, the exhibition continues with the presentation of works by students of Budapest’s prestigious design school MOME. The highlight is the joint project by Sára Farkas, Juli Jakabos, Hanna Kopacz and István Rudolf Vince, Csőváz! (‘Pipe Frame!’).

Pieces by jewellery designers are displayed together with short films about each one, to illustrate the sensitive and special experience of creating it. Beyond await items by Bratislava jewellery designers VŠVU and Zvolen furniture makers TUZVO.

The next section features, among other things, the social design project by Sebastian Herkner, set in small Colombian villages.

It is also worth highlighting the artefacts by Ward Wijnant, both the candlestick pressed from aluminium foil and the non-welded, twisted furniture, with its interesting aesthetic.

In fact, the lightest and heaviest chairs in Europe can be seen in close proximity to each other. It would be a struggle to shift Wijnant’s small blue chair, but Oskar Zieta’s seats, also on display, can be moved with your little finger.

Works by Hungarian designers are given their own separate island, combining to offer the specific vision that is beginning to unfold here. Of particular note are the series of furniture by Sára Kele and the chairs designed by Dávid Horváth, made by Balaton Bútor, illustrating how relationships between designers and builders are developing.

In the middle of the room, the mini-exhibition Made in Slovenia – The Future of Living presents the latest Slovenian design, including a couple of particularly beautiful pieces. Jana Mršnik’s mats were made with the help of local craftsmen, while her rug and demijohn-like bottles combine ancient handicraft techniques with modern patterns.

In the last hall of the exhibition is a selection of jewellery, works by the students of the Department of Jewellery and Goldsmiths of the Estonian Academy of Arts. These range from wearable pieces to haute couture leaning towards fine art, made from Sellotape, recycled materials and precious metals.

All in all, this is a rich selection showing the latest trends in contemporary design, expertly curated by the likes of Szilvia Szigeti and Tamás Radnóti, brimming with international contacts in the field.

It’s a lot to take in, so a short film has been made with the help of contemporary dancer Rita Góbi.

Exhibition information

Design Without Borders
Kiscelli Museum
1037 Budapest, Kiscelli utca 108
Open: Tue-Sun 10am-6pm
Until 28 November


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