21.03.2024 Betina Albrecht

Women in Design

View of an exhibition room of the exhibition „Here We Are! Frauen im Design 1900 – heute“, Möbelmuseum Wien, 2024, © SKB

How will the design of the 21st century look? Who defines it? And who is it for? The exhibition "Here We Are! Frauen im Design 1900 - heute" answers these questions and sheds a contemporary light on the history of modern design. The show presents the works of 80 women designers who have made a significant contribution to the development of design over the last 120 years.

The Italian architect and designer Nanda Vigo, 1985, © Gabriele Basilico courtesy by Archivio Nanda Vigo

Fight for equality

Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Verner Panton: these world-famous names have changed the history of design. But women have also had just as much or even more influence. Among them are architects and designers such as Eileen Gray, Charlotte Perriand, Lilly Reich and Clara Porset, as well as entrepreneurs such as Florence Knoll and Armi Ratia. Although women have made significant contributions to the development of modern design, their names appear less frequently in design history books than those of their male counterparts. However, design and architecture degrees have an increasing number of female students nowadays. The need for design references by women becomes ever more necessary. 

The evolution of design in Europe and the USA

Divided into four parts, the tour begins with the rise of design in Europe and the USA around 1900, where modern design emerged profession and women began to publicly fight for more political participation. Particularly interesting is the founding of the Loheland School – a school by women for women. Located in the Rhön region, the school was opened in 1919, in the same year as the Bauhaus. However, at the well-known school in Weimar, women were led into more traditional areas like textile and ceramic design. The aim of the Loheland school was to allow women to free themselves from societal constraints and occupy positions traditionally held by men. 

View of an exhibition room of the exhibition „Here We Are! Frauen im Design 1900 – heute“, Möbelmuseum Wien, 2024, © SKB

International recognition

The second part of the exhibition covers the period from the 1920s to the 1950s, when the first female designers such as Charlotte Perriand, Eileen Gray and Clara Porset achieved international success. Jeanne Toussaint ascended to the position of Creative Director of the Cartier jewelry company and headed the "Département S", whose products were tailored to the needs of the modern woman of the 1920s.

The exhibition shows the work of internationally established women designers. Exhibition room „Here We Are! Frauen im Design 1900 – heute“, Möbelmuseum Wien, 2024, © SKB

The third section of the exhibition shows the turbulent decades from 1950 to the end of the 1980s focusing on the second wave of feminism, which countered the conservative post-war mentality. Finally, visitors arrive in the present day, at the fourth and final part of the exhibition. Works by internationally established female designers such as Matali Crasset, Patricia Urquiola and Hella Jongerius prove that women are just as successful in design today as men. While some designers have been associating the field with scientific disciplines, many are also engaging with highly important themes such as diversity and intersectionality.  

View of an exhibition room of the exhibition „Here We Are! Frauen im Design 1900 – heute“, Möbelmuseum Wien, 2024, © SKB

Addressing this last topic, the collective Matri-Archi(tecture) has created an artwork especially for the exhibition. Five women have woven their stories into a tapestry which, in combination with audio and literature, gives life to the work "Weaving Constellations of Identity". With this installation, the collective manages to make visitors aware of the position of African women in design. 

Exhibition: Here We Are! Women in Design 1900 – today. An exhibition by Vitra Design Museum. 
Exhibition venue: Möbelmuseum Wien, Andreasgasse 7, 1070 Vienna (AT) 
Exhibition dates: 1 March to 30 June 2024 
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 10 am–5 pm 

Further information: moebelmuseumwien.at 

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