By Design: Historical and Contemporary Objects from Canadian Collections at the Design Exchange (234 Bay), to December 31. $8, stu/srs $5. 416-363-6121. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
We generally think of art museums as displaying painting, sculpture, prints and so forth.
Michael Prokopow , curator of the Design Exchange and a trained historian, has noted that many museums have also collected design objects, even when not mandated to do so.
The idea for a compelling design show was born: contacting museums across Canada, Prokopow asked curators to send prized design objects to give not only a comprehensive view of Canadian design but a visual map of 2oth-century material culture.
According to the heady and dense footnotes to the text accompanying the show, "Material is the articulation of prevailing technological thinking, aesthetic sensibility and cultural practice." Beyond giving us an overview of Canadian design and its evolution, this show aims to paint a broad portrait of Canada through its material culture.
From potato-insect pickers and Inuit kamik boots to the Bombardier skidoo and the 1972 Olympic torch, the show documents a wide array of household and industrial objects made in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Fans of every design era will walk away satisfied. Featured, for example, are an antique radio prototype, a sailing dinghy, an early record player and honest-to-god 70s sneakers.
A book's worth of text accompanies the array of objects, situating them in their respective aesthetic and social niches. The time line (by Daniela Bryson ) alone is a feat of design taxonomy.
This hugely ambitious show weaves together the disparate threads of design theory, museum practice, cultural history and love of good design into one coherent whole. Taking in even a third of the material here is guaranteed to boost your design IQ and appreciation considerably.