People want more Romanticism. At least that's what the curators of Cologne's Museum of Applied Art propose. The museum's latest exhibition, "Isn't It Romantic? Contemporary Design between Poetry and Provocation," suggests that we increasingly long to break out of our overly mobile and virtual worlds to seek freedom, nature and deceleration. Take a seat, if you like.
Is it a tree house for children or an ornithologist's sanctuary? The work entitled "Birdwatch Cabinet" symbolizes the desire for a quiet retreat. In the Romantic period from the late 18th to the early 19th century, nature and naturalness were among the highest ideals. Like their predecessors, today's Romantics long for a life that is in tune with nature.
Living in harmony with nature is also the aim of a particular group of young Czech designers. They regularly take walks in the forest to find inspiration. Their work touches on traditional themes, often taken from the realm of fairytales. As a result, their creations have a poetic sensuality to them, like these small bottles.
For the artists, poets and musicians at the turn of the 19th century, Romanticism was an attitude that touched every area of life. Focus was placed not only on an admiration for beauty, but also on everything melancholy, lugubrious, and human. In that sense, these lamps also embody Romanticism. They don't shed much light, but give off a glamorous yet gloomy aura.
The Cologne exhibition also presents playful, ironic and seemingly bizarre objects. And the idea of voluntarily sitting on a pile of cacti is strange indeed. This sofa, however, is actually made of comfortable foam-filled cushions.
What might seem cute at first glance is, upon closer inspection, somewhat disturbing. This sweet and innocent figurine is actually waving a gun around. Some of today's Romantics want us to take a closer look in the mirror and, in this case, re-examine society's attitudes towards violence and weapons.
The exhibition "Isn't It Romantic?" questions our idea of a perfect world. Porcelain figurines were en vogue during the Rococo era. Designer Jaime Hayon brings them into the modern age in the form of a flawless family. But is that an ideal worth striving for - so kitschy, so beautiful, and seemingly so perfect?
This dining set presents an unusual interpretation of home life. Tulga Beyerle, the Austrian curator of the exhibition, says this exhibit stands for the new trend toward design magazines offering personalized interior decoration. In addition to nature, individuality is central to Romanticism.
"Wild at Home" is a call to do away with our established image of the ideal home and dedicate at least one wall to nature and individuality. And what is Romantic about that? That's for each of us to find out for ourselves - which is exactly what the exhibition curators intended. "Isn't It Romantic?" runs through April 21 at the Museum of Applied Art in Cologne.
In light of the current financial crisis and increased mobility, more people are longing for deceleration and personal space. In short, for more Romanticism.