This is the story that lies behind the development of Lightopia – Vitra Design Museum’s latest exhibition, in Weil am Rhein. Starting from the idea that electric light has revolutionised our environment like no other medium, transforming cities, creating new lifestyles and becoming a catalyst of progress for industry, medicine and communication, the show looks at the current developments in artificial lighting and in the ways in which art and industrial design have been influencing each other in this journey.

It is so intriguing to look at the objects that demonstrate the performative power of light (such as the Light-Space Modulator by László Moholy-Nagy, or the discothèque in translucent plexiglass dated 1968) made by artists of the past. And to see how the work of those of the present (such as Ólafur Elíasson, Troika, Chris Fraser, Front Design, Joris Laarman) illustrate the scope of new possibilities for designing with light. 

Coupling art with amazing lighting design pieces (by Wilhelm Wagenfeld, Achille Castiglioni, Gino Sarfatti and Ingo Maurer), the exhibition offers a fresh new approach to the two most talked about domains of creativity and provides a unique vision on how they both merged and pushed each other forward throughout the decades. What was an artistic vision in the 1960s often turned into an industrially manufactured product in the 70s or 80s.

Materials also play a key role. While plastics, coloured light and halogen lamps were the driving forces behind new designs during the past century, today this role has been taken on by digitalisation or OLED technology. The new light is consequently increasingly autonomous and independent from traditional lighting objects since it can be integrated in textiles or façades, and it is a powerful element in the definition of physical spaces. Just as it was, in the 1960s, in Cruz-Diez’s kinetic art environments.

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