Objects of Desire
Surrealism & Design

08.03 – 04.08.2024

mudac presents Objects of Desire, an exhibition by the Vitra Design Museum.

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Objects of Desire explores the close dialogue between surrealism and design over the last hundred years. From Salvador Dali to Meret Oppenheim and Iris van Herpen, the exhibition presents both pioneering works from the 1930s and contemporary projects. Even today, surrealism provides designers with a wealth of inspiration, whether through its fantastic motifs, its subversive approach, or its interest in the human psyche. Objects of Desire showcases this abundant diversity, bringing together design furniture and graphic design, fashion, decoration and photography.

The vast Objects of Desire exhibition reveals this fruitful dialogue, bringing together works by Gae Aulenti, BLESS, Achille Castiglioni, Giorgio de Chirico, Le Corbusier, Salvador Dalí, Dunne & Raby, Max Ernst, Ray Eames, Frederick Kiesler, Shiro Kuramata, Carlo Mollino, Isamu Noguchi, Meret Oppenheim, Man Ray, Iris van Herpen, and many others.

In 2024, the three Plateforme 10 museums – the MCBA, Photo Elysée and mudac – will team up for an exceptional Surrealist season.

The Surrealism

The origins of Surrealism can be traced back to André Breton’s Manifesto of Surrealism, which was published in 1924. The movement quickly took on an international dimension, drawing writers, artists, and filmmakers in its wake. The subconscious, dreams, obsessions, chance, and the irrational were just some of the sources from which the Surrealists drew to create their new artistic reality. In the 1930s, the first signs of Surrealism’s influence on the world of design began to be felt, but it was mainly in the 1940s that the trend gained strength and spread to the world of fashion, furniture, and photography, appearing on the front cover of magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue.
Even today, Surrealism provides designers with a wide range of inspiration, including motifs drawn from its fantastic imagery, a subversive approach, and an interest in the human psyche.

The exhibition Objects of Desire juxtaposes surrealist artworks and design objects, revealing fascinating parallels and cross-references. Representative works from the world of design range from the 1930s—Meret Oppenheim’s Table with Bird’s Feet (1939)—to contemporary works, including fashion creations by Iris van Herpen, objects by Konstantin Grcic, or Odd Matter, as well as critical design projects that question new technologies or gender roles in subversive ways. These works demonstrate that design is not just about function or technology, but also about the hidden reality of objects, our secret dreams, obsessions, and myths—in other words, the surreal.

Dr. Mateo Kries

Assistant curator
Tanja Cunz

Isabelle Schorer

Design of the exhibition

Graphic design
Neo Neo


Objects of Desire. Surrealism and Design, 1924 – Today documents this fascinating dialogue, featuring numerous essays and a wide selection of images of representative works of art and design objects. The book includes works by artists and designers such as Gae Aulenti, BLESS, Achille Castiglioni, Fernando & Humberto Campana, Le Corbusier, Salvador Dalí, Marcel Duchamp, Front, Iris van Herpen, Frederick Kiesler, René Magritte, Carlo Mollino, Meret Oppenheim, and many others. It is complemented by historical quotations and short statements by contemporary designers. This in-depth examination highlights one thing: form does not always follow function—it can also follow our obsessions, fantasies, and hidden desires.

A Vitra Design Museum publication, available in English and German from the mudac/Photo Elysée bookshop for 59.90 CHF. 

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