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Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen showcases two hundred years of design
Waac’s Design & Consultancy, Senseo, 2003, design Philips / Douwe Egberts. Right: Erik Sijmons, Samsonite Cosmolite, 2009.

ROTTERDAM.- This summer the Netherlands and Belgium are going head to head in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. The exhibition juxtaposes the best designers and designs from the neighbouring countries over the past two hundred years: from the extravagant elegance of Belgian Art Nouveau to its more streamlined Dutch variant and from Belgium’s sophisticated craftsmanship to the Netherlands’ more conceptual design. Who will win? Or will this ‘Design Derby’ end in a dead heat?

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, in collaboration with Design museum Gent will showcase two hundred years of design from the Netherlands and Belgium. More than five hundred carefully selected design objects, ranging from intricately engraved silver, glassware and ceramics to contemporary furniture, fashion and graphic design, will be exhibited in chronological order and in parallel. From Empire by way of the Neo-Renaissance to Art Deco and more recent developments like eco-design and social design: the exhibition will reveal striking similarities and surprising differences between the two countries. It is the first time that design practices in the Netherlands and Belgium will be compared on this scale.

Berlage versus Van de Velde
The exhibition is arranged around twenty critical themes in the design of the last two centuries, including the tension between arts and crafts, early industrial development and the relationship with mass culture. What differences can be seen in early nineteenth-century decorative objects and utensils when the Industrial Revolution was driving Belgium forward, while this development was still fifty years in the future in the Netherlands? And how did the two countries compete during international trials of strength like the huge Art Deco exhibition in Paris in 1925? Similarities come to light just as often as differences, where the neighbouring countries share identical breeding grounds or there was an unmistakable interchange. While design icons like Berlage, the Bruynzeel kitchen, Gispen and Hella Jongerius defined Dutch design history, their equivalents in Belgium were Henry Van de Velde, the Cubex kitchen, Tubax and Sophie Lachaert.

Publication, Video and Events
Accompanying the exhibition will be a special book in which design professionals from the Netherlands and Belgium will explore a range of subjects. Alongside each thematic contribution there will be a commentary by a specialist from the neighbouring country. This publication will be available at the museum shop, and major bookshops. A new video will appear on

‘Design Derby: Netherlands-Belgium’ has been put together by Mienke Simon Thomas, Senior Curator of Applied Art and Design, and her Belgian colleague Frank Huygens, Head of Research at Design museum Gent. In 2013 Mienke Simon Thomas produced ‘Hand Made: Long Live Crafts’, an exhibition that attracted tens of thousands of visitors to Rotterdam and was nominated for the 2013 Dutch Design Award and the 2014 AICA Award.

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