The exhibition Surprising Ingenuity – Current Views of Austrian Design displayed an overview of contemporary design in Austria, encompassing industrial, product and furniture design from leading companies such as Red Bull, Swarovski, Bene, KTM, Wolford and Lobmeyer. In addition it featured several interventions at the crossroads of design, architecture, art and dance by AND_I, Gilbert Bretterbauer, Dejana Kabiljo, Arquitectos/Dieter Spath, Andreas Thaler and EOOS. Liquid Loft presented a version of Living Room framing the show within the context of Thonet’s famous chair number 14 and asking the question: What is our furniture doing when we are not at home?
Without any false pretentions of constructing a national design language in times of globalisation, the exhibition highlighted some common traits of contemporary design in Austria. All of the presented companies and design statements were characterised by their obsession with the solution of technical problems, mostly in very small niches of industry and trade, best documented by the worldwide leading developer of car engines AVL. The show proved the passion of Austrian based companies and designers for unique materials and specialised developments, such as high tech steel by Böhler Uddeholm, or sophisticated solutions in glass by Lobmeyr – having already worked with Josef Hoffmann and Adolf Loos during the Wiener Werkstätte period in the early 20th century and still today with avant-garde designers such as Marco Dessi and Ted Muehling. All objects and projects were united by a minimalist formal approach, and an aesthetic that resonates emotion, double meaning and humour.
The exhibition was organised by Advantage Austria and curated by Art&Ideas’s founder and director Robert Punkenhofer.
Photos © Wolfgang Thaler