They are icons. The exhibition “Design. Designs of the 20th century” at DESA Unicum

DESA Unicum in Warsaw will host the exhibition ‘Design. Cult Projects of the 20th Century”. Visitors will be able to see 80 selected furniture and lamps that are examples of world design. Among the items on display are also Polish designs. The exhibition can be viewed from 22 May to 3 June.

It has been a long time since so much iconic furniture and accessories were gathered in one place in Warsaw. The exhibition ‘Design. Cult Projects of the 20th Century” is a treat for lovers of famous objects. Their great asset is their original appearance and timelessness, thanks to which they look great in contemporary designed interiors. Vintage fans and lovers of eclecticism in particular know this – a suitably selected piece of furniture from decades ago will become a real ornament of existing spaces.

At the DESA Unicum exhibition “Design. Cult Projects of the 20th Century”, you can be inspired by exceptional designs from all over the world: Italy, France, the United States, Great Britain, Scandinavian countries, Czechoslovakia and Germany, and Poland. The gallery space brings together furniture and decorative elements from a variety of styles, including Art déco, Bauhaus, Mid-Century Modern, Brussels style, Space-Age, postmodernism or the iconic Memphis Group.

Through vintage furniture and decoration you can manifest your unique interior style. Vintage furniture has been very popular for several years, becoming the perfect complement to modern interiors, both residential and office. Each such object has its own individual story, and the discovery of unique stories gives them additional value. The exhibition at DESA Unicum allows us to trace how trends have changed and what objects and furniture dominated interiors at a given point in history,” says Weronika Roś, an expert at DESA Unicum.

From Art déco to postmodernism

At the beginning of the 20th century, Europe was developing intensively. The process of industrialisation was underway. Culture and art were developing just as intensively. In the first decades of the last century, art, which was later referred to as Art déco, became increasingly popular. One of the creators of this period was the Czechoslovak designer Jindřich Halabala. The exhibition will feature armchairs he designed in the 1960s and an I-370 table from the second half of the 20th century. This furniture exemplifies the skilful fusion of modernism with Art déco and Mid-Century Modern.

The organisers draw attention to other valuable pieces already characteristic of functionalism and the so-called streamline style. While the former was distinguished by a simple approach to design and practicality, the latter was characterised by streamlined shapes. Both were popular in the inter-war period, and furniture designed in this way usually adorned stately villas. An example is the work of Marcel Breuer – a leading representative of the Bauhaus. The exhibition at DESA Unicum will feature his famous Wasilly chair (pictured below).

The Mid-Century Modern style just mentioned made its mark in interiors in the second half of the 20th century. This style developed in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s and was characterised by soft, streamlined shapes complemented by abstract decorations. Designers at the time began to turn to plastics. Plastic as a raw material and its mixtures made it possible to create shapes that had previously been impossible to achieve when working with wood. Therefore, bold forms were designed, which brought a bit of humour to the interiors. The exhibition at DESA Unicum includes, among others, a set of Steen Ostergaard chairs with fascinating shapes.

We can see that, over time, customer interest in mid-century modern style is beginning to extend beyond the aforementioned time caesura. More and more consumers are looking back to decades closer to us: the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, which were dominated by postmodernism. Although the interiors of those years often evoke associations with a certain clunkiness and coarseness, certain designs certainly deserve recognition. Among them, the most noteworthy are a pair of lamps designed by Ettore Sottsass, founder of the Memphis Group, or a pair of ‘Zyklus’ armchairs designed by Peter Maly, which are on display at DESA Unicum, adds Mariusz Pendraszewski, an expert at DESA Unicum.

The availability of the Memphis Group’s designs is a treat for fans of design in the 1980s and 1990s. The then-creative design group reached for seemingly contradictory colour combinations, geometric shapes and patterns. The furniture by Ettore Sottsass has many fans around the world. One of them was Karl Lagerfeld, who filled the interior of his flat in Monaco with the Memphis Group’s furniture.

The exhibition featured exceptional names of global design icons, including Michael Ducaroy, Ludwig Volak, Hans J. Wegner, Phillipe Starck, Marcel Breuer, Mart Stam, Verner Panton, Robert Heritage and Claude Brisson. They are the creators of brilliantly recognisable designs such as the ‘Zen’ and ‘Wassily’ armchairs or the ‘Ara’ lamp. Behind each object is an interesting story of its creation or an extravagant character of the designer, which is worth finding out more about by visiting the exhibition.

The exhibition “Design. Cult Projects of the 20th Century” is open to the public from 22.05-03.06 at the DESA Unicum headquarters at Piękna Street 1A in Warsaw. An auction will be organised on the third of June, during which it will be possible to bid for the presented objects.

Spring edition of DESA Design Days

This coming Saturday, 25 May, DESA Unicum invites you to spend a weekend with the most beautiful design from Poland and the world during DESA Design Days. During this edition special guests will be the creators of the cult profile “Jesus of Design” – Diana Żurek and Bartosz “Gutek” Girek, interior architects jointly running Furora Studio. During a conversation with DESA Unicum expert Mariusz Pendaraszewski, they will talk, among other things, about their favourite projects from the exhibition, how to arrange interiors using vintage objects and whether vintage furniture finds its way into spaces other than residential.

DESA Design Days schedule – Saturday, 25 May:

12:00 – ‘Design. Cult objects of the 20th century” a guided tour of the pre-auction exhibition (led by Mariusz Pendraszewski, DESA Unicum)

13:00 – “20th century design in the eyes of interior designers” – discussion (Diana Żurek, Bartosz “Gutek” Girek – interior architects Furora Studio, running the “Jesus of design” page on Instagram; moderated by Mariusz Pendraszewski, DESA Unicum)

source: DESA Unicum(

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