The expansive show presents varied and previously unseen materials from the Papanek Foundation archive pertaining to design activist Victor Papanek’s lifelong career, highlighting the crucial theme of design as a political and social tool. The exhibition explored contemporary work by Tomás Saraceno, Catherine Sarah Young, Gabriel Ann Maher, Thomas Thwaites, and Forensic Architecture, as well as Flui Coletivo and Questtonó, among others, demonstrating that Papanek’s interpretation of design as a tool for social transformation is as relevant as ever.
Featuring rich and previously unexplored materials from the Victor Papanek archive in dialogue with the work of emerging designers from Vienna, London, and New York, this exhibition challenges Victor Papanek’s legacy of socially committed design by bringing it into conversation with contemporary work by a new generation of speculative and critical designers.
The Papanek Foundation at the University of Applied Arts Vienna loans works from the Papanek Archive and Library to national and international exhibitions coordinated by prestigious museums and institutions. The loans below are from a selection of recent exhibitions.
8 Feb 2017–21 May 2017
Walker Art Center in association with Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, University of California.
Material from the Victor J. Papanek archive was featured in the exhibition Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia at the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA), University of California (BAMPFA), which examined the intersection of art, architecture, and design in 1960s and early 1970s US counterculture.
Works featured included photographs of his radical designs, among them the Big Character Poster No.1: Work Chart for Designers (1973), the Tin Can Radio (‘Radio Receiver designed for the Third World’) (c.1971) and Artificial Burrs (1964-70).
Organised by the Walker Art Center in association with the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA), the exhibition was curated by Andrew Blauvelt, director of Cranbrook Art Museum.
14 Oct 2021– 9 Jan 2022
Then travelling to the Nasjonalmuseet Oslo, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Milwaukee Art Museum.
Victor Papanek’s Big Character Poster No. 1: Work Chart for Designers, 1969 , is a featured loan in LACMA’s travelling exhibition, Scandinavian Design and the United States, 1890–1980, the first exhibition to examine the extensive design exchanges between the United States and Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden) during the 20th century. At a seminar in Copenhagen in 1969, students asked Papanek to summarise his design philosophy.
The result was Big Character Poster No. 1, which includes the important cornerstones of Papanek’s thinking on design as a radical practice inherently tied to social, ethical, environmental, and political concerns. In 1973, it became available as a poster and still holds extensive relevance to the field today. Like Papanek’s mapping of design in the 1960s and 1970s, many of the issues considered in the travelling exhibition remain relevant, including the contributions of immigrants to their adopted societies, the importance of international exchange, critical analysis of cultural myths, and concern about environmental sustainability and accessibility.