What are the characteristics of Polish design after 1989? Do we really know which way it is heading, and what the expectations of the modern recipient are? This and similar topics will be the centre of attention during the April exhibition at the National Museum in Kraków.

“The other side of things. Polish design after 1989” exhibition (6 April – 19 August 2018) presents the development of Polish design from the times of budding capitalism, when artists strived to find their place in the new reality, to when artists started more courageously and effectively competing on foreign markets.

Firstly, furniture

The beginning of the 1990s is associated with the dynamic development of residential construction, when Polish people started to build, furnish, and arrange their houses. This did not fail to affect the furniture industry. Although the period of economic transformation brought foreign capital into our market, it was also the time when today’s iconic projects were created,
e.g. the famous “Cello” armchair (1996) by Jerzy Langier. Nevertheless, Polish design needed some help in order to compete with the cheaper and sometimes better-quality goods from abroad. Therefore, in 1993, the Institute of Industrial Design (IID) organized the first “Good Design” contest, in which the best domestic products were awarded.

New is coming!

After 2000 and subsequent accession to the European Union, a progress can be observed in Poland. In 2001, the first issue of the “2+3D” quarterly was published by the “Rzecz Piękna” Foundation in Kraków. Moreover, design became popular and desired –
a fact confirmed by the first edition of “Łódź Design” Festival organized in 2007; “Design Days” held by IID in Gdynia in 2008, and “Arena Design” that took place in Poznań in 2009, thus forming the group of three great design festivals.

What’s up with business?

A young, courageous generation of managers, who willingly establish cooperation with national designers, comes into prominence. Moreover, even the biggest companies are not afraid to invest in the Polish design industry. The flagship example is the cooperation of Marek Cecuła with the Polish Porcelain Factory “Ćmielów” and “Chodzież”.
Cecuła, a world-renowned artist, opened Ćmielów Design Studio in 2013, where he created the popular collection “Crooked” that consists of white porcelain cups or vases, whose texture resembles bent paper. Tomasz Augustyniak is another person worth mentioning. Born in 1967, this artist has created over 130 furniture designs for such companies as Marbet Style, Vox Industrie, Piu Design or Profim.

Back to the past

Meanwhile, the trend of revitalization of old projects is becoming noticeable with the creation of Studio Vzór in 2012 that consists of Jakub Sobiepanek, Michał Włoch and Krystyna Łuczak-Surówka. In this way, the iconic RM58 chair (1958) by Roman Modzelewski
returns to life and serial production. Studio Vzór faithfully reproduced the original chair, retaining, among others, original range of colours, while employing the latest technologies of production.

Key word: usability

During the discussion on the state and development of design, the frequently asked question concerns its usefulness. A functional trend of design is visible in the works of Ergo Design studio in Kraków, responsible for the design of the Avionaut car seat for the youngest passengers. On the other hand, the other popular brand that has gained recognition abroad is Massada,
a joint venture of Katarzyna Łupińska, a graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków, and Sebastian Wood, a British designer. The sunglasses created by the artistic duo are distinguished by stylish frames, referring to the classics of the 1940s and 1950s.

The direction of Polish design

Although dynamic development can be observed, high production costs make it difficult to find buyers for some projects produced on a mass scale. Will the solution be multidisciplinary and more frequent cooperation between designers and industry?
Or maybe, due to the changing lifestyle of Poles and the popularity of the eco trend, the design will be dominated by more niche social projects? The exhibition “The other side of things. Polish design after 1989” may bring us closer to answering these questions.