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James Dyson, DC11 vacuum cleaner, 2003. Photo courtesy Dyson Ltd.

MILWAUKEE, WI.- The Milwaukee Art Museum’s newest feature exhibition, European Design Since 1985: Shaping the New Century, opens this Saturday, October 9. It is the first encompassing, critical assessment of contemporary Western European design from 1985 to 2005.

European Design Since 1985: Shaping the New Century will present more than 200 seminal works including furniture, ceramics, metalwork, glass and product design that reveal the extraordinary creativity of over 100 European designers. The exhibition defines Europe’s central role in driving design’s proliferation during the 1980s and 1990s.

“This exhibition reminds us that great art is present in our lives every day. European Design Since 1985 makes art accessible,” said Mel Buchanan, Mae E. Demmer Assistant Curator of 20th-century Design. “Whether it is a light fixture, a vase, a chair, a vacuum, or a knife and fork, it is not just an object. These are useful and beautiful artworks that express ideas and opinions and sometimes genius.”

The exhibition and catalogue divide designs into two major movements, those that continue a “Postmodern” attitude and those that renew a “Modern” tradition. The show is divided into eight sections which include objects highlighting modern, postmodern, biomorphic, neo-dada and minimalist design, among others.

“This exhibition is friendly, colorful, and whimsical,” said Buchanan. “European Design Since 1985 offers a fantastic variety of objects that blur the line between fine art, craft, and design. It might differ with what some define as fine art, but you can also argue that many of these chairs and lamps are as conceptual as a bronze sculpture or abstract painting.”

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