Exhibition Review: Extraord!nary Stor!es About Ord!nary Th!ngs @ Design Museum

The Design Museum will be moving to a new home on Kensington High Street in late 2014, where it will have more space to display its vast collection of objects. But before it makes the move, it’s brought out some highlights accompanied by the stories of how they came to be. But does this exhibition have the impact that its profligate use of exclamation marks suggests?

The museum has set itself a difficult challenge. Though designers have been through many incarnations to give us modern chairs, tables and lamps; how do you make such utilitarian objects fascinating? This exhibition struggles to surmount this challenge. Despite numerous factoids about the designers and why they chose a certain design over another, the final objects are rather bland and often fail to inspire. Last year, the Science Museum was able to make humble objects interesting in its Hidden Heroes exhibition, but the items on display here don’t have as colourful back stories.

What the Design Museum does have is a collection of eccentricities, and it wheels a few out in this show, such as furniture made out of bicycle parts and an armchair upholstered with Disney soft toys that made us smile. There are also plenty of iconic displays such as an original K6 red telephone kiosk and one of the first British Rail signs, which has changed very little in nearly 50 years and been adopted by many countries.

This exhibition has a few gems but many of the objects on display aren’t particularly inspiring nor do they have the interesting stories that will grip visitors.

Extraord!nary Stor!es about Ord!nary Th!ngs is on display at the Design Museum, Shad Thames, SE1 2YD. Tickets are £10.75, concessions available.

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