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Evolution of the Conception of Beauty in Contemporary Glass Art at Mudac in Lausanne
Zoltan Bohus, Formula II, 1981. Collection du mudac, Lausanne.

LAUSANNE.- Launched in the early 1970s, the mudac collection has reached the respectable age of forty. It has attained a level of maturity that invites in-depth critical examination of its sources. After all, four decades of collecting activity the world over — led by the late Peter Engelhorn and his wife Traudl Engelhorn, and with the zealous collaboration of Rosmarie Lippuner (director of the mudac’s predecessor, the Museum of Decorative Arts) —is no mean feat! The collection is currently on view October 31st 2011 at mudac.

The mudac’s art glass collection is distinguished by several basic traits. Firstly, it centers on a single material, which in turn boasts certain novel artistic properties recognized as such in the early 1950s. Moreover, it is encyclopedic in its scope, proceeding in a keenly curious and open-minded spirit that keeps it in step with the most recent creative developments. Thus its very makeup is protean, even anomalous in the best sense of the word. As such, it bears witness to the emergence of a new form of art —and this in all its aspects and including the many techniques used for its production.

Since the collection deals with contemporary glass art as a recent, indeed ongoing development, the Engelhorn wife-and-husband team was at pains to document it thoroughly, wherever in the world it has been taking place and in the greatly differing styles it entails. It was never a question of confining themselves to a couple of renowned historic sites —Murano and former Bohemia come to mind for their traditional renown —or to a single country currently particularly active in glass creation, such as the United States. To the contrary, their efforts have always been driven by an insatiable quest for novelty. This is what lent impetus to the growth of a collection that, today, mudac is honoured to oversee and develop further.

Our visitors may be overwhelmed by the diversity of techniques represented (blowing, molding, thermo-forming, cutting, engraving, sanding and so on) and the numerous styles illustrated by the hand of over 300 glass artists. All the more so given the mischievous reflections and charms emanating from the material itself, at the same time so pure and yet so mysterious. It thus seemed useful to us to provide a structured reading of the major trends that, from the 1970s until the late 1990s, can be considered more or less central to glass creation.

Indeed, the notions of “beauty” and “good taste” are born of fashion dictates: while often imposing themselves in seemingly absolute manner for a decade or so, these are then radically challenged during the following period of time... To view trends with an amused eye, to see them at a remove and with an open mind, can make us aware of the relativity of our judgmental criteria. It also allows us to measure the passage of time in the light of the displayed selection of works belonging to the museum collection.

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