Crush – what happens when plastic meets art?

The Design Museum Brussels presents the exhibition Crush: an unexpected dialogue between pieces from the Plastic Design Collection and works of art from the Museum of Ixelles.

This is a collaboration between the museums – an opportunity created by the Museum of Ixelles currently being renovated.

The Crush exhibition brings together pieces from both collections to showcase them in new ways – industrial plastic designs meet paintings, sculptures, photographs, and drawings.

I caught up with Arnaud Bozzini – Director of the Design Museum Brussels – for a behind-the-scenes look at the exhibition.

When you had the opportunity to borrow from the collection of the Museum of Ixelles, what was the process that brought you to this concept of exploring a ‘crush’ between two pieces?

Claire Leblanc, the terrific director of the Ixelles Museum, and I had wanted to work together for a long time and were looking for the right opportunity.

The Musée d’Ixelles is currently closed for renovations and extensions, and they have had brilliant ideas to keep their museum alive during that period. So, we invited Claire and her team to develop with us a project that could shed a new light on the design pieces of the Plastic Design Collection as well as on artworks from the Ixelles museum.

At the Design Museum Brussels, this is exactly the kind of project that gets everyone excited – collaborative, innovative, meaningful.

It’s always wonderful to work with another Belgian museum.

What was the process you followed to match the pieces of the two collections?

Like many museums, the unprecedented period that we have been living since March 2020 has given us the opportunity to refocus on our collections.

We were particularly interested in the women designers present in our collections and we did a thorough scan of everything we had.

For certain pieces, there was a careful identification process – it’s not uncommon that women were ‘hidden’ behind a male partner or within a collective.

We had a very interesting and diverse list and we decided that it could be that list that could be sent to Claire Leblanc. So, it is from this list that Claire Leblanc worked to explore the rich and varied collections of ancient, modern and contemporary art in the Ixelles Museum.

She worked on a vast collection of nearly 13,000 works including painting, sculpture, photography but also the Art Nouveau poster collection of the Ixelles museum.

Which piece was the most difficult to find a Crush companion for?

The purpose of the exhibition is special. It balances between subjective dialogue and sensitive approach. This approach gives rise to surprising interactions that come out of classic museum presentations.

The approach was completely free, the associations had to be spontaneous, no part being imposed and the crushes were therefore obvious.

So, no piece was particularly ‘difficult – either there was an organic, immediate association to be made or there was a lot of intellectual fun in finding inspiration for an unlikely association.

Is this an accessible way of appreciating the merits of both pieces, or do you need to be a bit of an art lover and a design lover for this to make sense?

The experience is accessible to everyone, there is no question about that – that’s a a constant in both our museums.

We wanted to share the great fun we had in connecting the pieces through some explanations given in a booklet distributed at the entrance. It also gives some elements of the history of design and art.

But the exhibition must remain a discovery and a fun ride through a personal approach to these crushes.

So, we do hope that everyone also walks around without reading what we have tell them and makes up their own story, their own connection.

There are different ways to experience this great exhibition. A lot of people like to come twice!

Is this a concept that the Design Museum could apply to other collections?

Since the opening of the museum in December 2015, we have already collaborated with many other museum institutions in Brussels, in Belgium, in Europe, and also in the United States. Working with other collections is standard practice at the Design Museum Brussels.

This time, the collaboration is with a museum and a collection of art and not of design. So, we’ll see. Maybe this exhibition will give people some ideas.

What we do hope though, is that the concept inspire people to set up their own crush at home, between various bits of arts or design that they own.

How do you hope that people feel when they’re experiencing the Crush exhibition?

We hope that the public appreciates the concept and discovers the value of this type of singular proposal, which allows museum collections to be discovered in a singular and original way.

We also hope that the visitor will take happiness in the discovery of these conceptual and formal links between pieces, which should also allow them to open up differently to design and art.

But – most importantly – this is a fun, playful experience, full of surprises designed to shake up our imagination.

Find out more about Crush at the Design Museum Brussels