Énergie animale

Porcelain cat figure, Carl Frederik Liisberg for Royal Copenhagen A/S, 1896, Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Arts and Crafts Collection. Photograph: Umberto Romito und Ivan Suta, Museum für Gestaltung Zürich.Rocking snail, Wisa Gloria AG, produced around 1961, Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Design Collection, donated by Balthasar Zimmermann. Photograph: Franz Xaver Jaggy, Umberto Romito, Museum für Gestaltung Zürich. Bell poster, Lora Lamm for Bell Ltd.: 1963, Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Poster Collection. Photograph: Franz Xaver Jaggy, Museum für Gestaltung Zürich. Cocktail dress with cape, Cristóbal Balenciaga for Balenciaga, August 1967, Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Arts and Crafts Collection. Photograph: Umberto Romito, Ivan Suta, Museum für Gestaltung Zürich.

The exhibition “Énergie animale” presents animal-themed design through surprising stagings and questions.



Starting from the image of the ark, “Énergie animale” illumines the animal as a source of food and contemplates its presence in fashion and in living areas. The exhibition traces the roles played by animals and draws a line from their exploration to their cult worship through a selection of handcrafted artifacts, talking industrial products, graphics, photographs and film clips. Through these object worlds, the exhibition addresses various urgent issues such as species extinction, ethical production and veganism. Specimens of native animals populate the ark, called “Énergie animale”, as spirit beings. Should wolves be shot? Do bees belong in the city? Kazumasa Nagai’s forceful animal protection posters highlight the fragility of nature, while miniaturised worlds with wooden Vitali animals and animals from the Steiff assortment invite visitors to make discoveries.

Livestock as far as the eye can see!

Non-vegan food is a topic of discussion at almost every dinner table. Countless objects in the context of meat, fish, eggs and milk illustrate our close connection with these animal resources. Artistic works open up the discourse when filigree silhouettes conjure up an “intact” rural world or when Fischli/Weiss commemorate the cervelat with a clay monument while consigning it to the past as an index fossil. Despite the debate on animal suffering and the search for vegan alternatives, fashion without cashmere, silk, leather, etc. seem stills inconceivable. Haute couture models by Balenciaga and Dior celebrate the beauty of precious natural materials, while production conditions often dampen one’s joy …

Sorry, this is Pasha’s Place!

Animals take effect in living areas as decoration and as three-dimensional figures. Art nouveau captures the fauna in idealised form on vases and textiles, which now enter into dialogue with Christoph Hefti’s Kafkaesque giant beetle. The quilt on Kirchner’s chaise longue and a painted farmer’s bed frame those sleeping beneath the cattle drive. The rocking snail remains reserved for the child — on the same plane as the pets we encounter here as fashionable porcelain dogs, once bred as working animals: the poodle for hunting, the bulldog in the butcher’s service. Today, sales of comfort objects for pets are booming, while vegan goodies and treats for our lactose-intolerant four-legged friends are following human trends. Advertising posters for all kinds of products feature qualities especially esteemed in animals such as loyalty and playfulness.

Simply adorable, these animals!

The adventurous researcher depicts the animal world in lifelike graphics. And yet, German zoologist Ernst Haeckel, for example, forces scientifically precise molluscs into symmetrical compositions, while every insect box also testifies to the collector’s need to impose order. Designer Cornelia Hesse-Honegger transforms nature’s rich details into decorative patterns, while Akihiro Higuchi refines beetle specimens with artistic painting. Fantastic hybrid creatures such as unicorns and sirens can be understood in terms of the respectful distance to animals. Inspiration by animal qualities such as strength and speed manifests itself in cave paintings or in Japanese miniature sculptures (netsuke). The exhibits, from the collections of the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, are supplemented by first-rate museum loans and by various artistic positions. Cooperations with ZHdK’s Bachelor of Design and Trends & Identity programme explore the sustainability of animal materials and the  relationship between humans and pets as socio-economic phenomena of cultural transformation. A specially designed children’s trail offers young animal lovers exciting insights. The exhibition is complemented by a rich educational programme.

“Énergie animale”
Vernissage: 13 February 2020, 7pm
Exhibition: 14 February until 7 June 2020
Tuesday–Sunday 10am–5pm, Wednesday 10am–8pm
Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Ausstellungsstrasse 60, Zurich
Sabine Flaschberger (sabine.flaschberger@zhdk.ch) is the curator of “Énergie animale” and of the arts and crafts collection at the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich.
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