Isnt It Romantic? Contemporary Design Balancing Between Poetry and Provocation @ MAKK Köln


In literature, music and art, the term ‘romanticism’ refers to an artistic era that reached from the late 18th far into the 19th century. Today we associate this term with attributes such as ‘rapturous’, ‘dreamy’, ‘imaginative’ and ‘poetic’ but also with ‘kitsch’ and with being out of touch with reality. But what, then, does romanticism have to do with contemporary design?


The exhibition ‘Isn’t it romantic? Contemporary Design between Poetry and Provocation’ attempts to address our current understanding of romanticism and to explore the new desire for romanticism.  The longing for beauty and harmony and for a place of fulfilment can be understood as an alternative concept to modernism, which has predominantly shaped our current society. New values such as individuality, sensuousness, uniqueness and affinity with nature stand in opposition to increasing globalisation and mobility, against ubiquitous information overload, against alienation and against the absolute transparency of our private lives.

Against this backdrop, we can observe a shift in contemporary design that, in terms of motivation and goals, can be compared to the historic Romantic Movement. In contrast to the positions represented in the design of the 1960s and 1980s, this current movement is both less radical and less political. The focus is not so much on a radical rejection of the generally accepted understanding of design as related to the notions of perfection, functionality and a reduction of forms, rather it is about a synthesis of the romantic and the modern and about an amalgamation of rationality and irrationality, something which can be observed in current design.

Romantic tendencies are, for example, expressed in patterns, in materials and processing techniques, but also in concepts that take up and reinterpret poetic, ironic and even disturbing principles of romanticism. The positions shown in the exhibition are represented by internationally acclaimed designers such as Philippe Starck, Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, Patricia Urquiola, Hella Jongerius, Martino Gamper, Doshi Levien, Tord Boontje and Jaime Hayon and also by conceptual pieces by design studios including Formafantasma, Makkink & Bey, Robert Stadler, Julia Lohmann and Pieke Bergmans.

The exhibition, entitled ‘Isn’t it romantic?’ opens alongside imm cologne (the international furniture fair in Cologne) and the Passagen. During the week of imm cologne, we expect to welcome some 5,000 visitors. The exhibition will be documented in a representative, bilingual catalogue with contributions from internationally acclaimed design experts. There will also be an exciting event programme featuring, for example, Lidewij Edelkoort, with both a talk on “Romanticism, or the way we feel” and a trends seminar on “Nomadism on the road to fashion”, both to be held at the MAKK. Lidewij Edelkoort is seen as the most influential trends researcher operating today. Since 1975, she has helped companies all over the world with issues related to trends, colours and lifestyle.

Jan 20, 2013 - Apr 21, 2013

Museum für Angewandte Kunst
An der Rechtschule
50667 Cologne

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