The Design Museum, with support from the Art Fund, has added Jasper Morrison’s Handlebar Table to its Collection. The Handlebar Table is sometimes understood as a reference to the curved tubular steel furniture that architect and designer Marcel Breuer pioneered, when he studied and taught at the Bauhaus in the 1920s. Breuer became fascinated by the potential of tubular steel by studying the handlebars of his Adler bicycle. Made from beech wood, glass and chronium steel bicycle handlebars, the table expresses Morrison’s early fascination with the ‘found’ object. Morrison sought to find ways to give his work the quality of mass produced machine made objects, but without access to the level of investment of tooling that was required, so this work with its off-the-shelf bicycle handlebars allowed him to achieve this. Other work in a similar vein includes a chair he made using laundry basket fabrication techniques, and his 1984 Flower Pot Table made from a glass circle and supported by a stack of ordinary flower pots.
Designed in 1983, the Handlebar Table with its unique bicycle handlebar base and top and Beachwood column, demonstrates Morrison’s simple, innovative approach to design. This piece defined the beginning of Morrison’s career and represents his moderate approach to the design excesses of the 1980s and an early fascination with the ‘found’ object.
The Handlebar Table, regarded as Morrison’s first piece of significant furniture design, will join the Design Museum Collection and will go on display as part of an exhibition celebrating pieces from the museum’s collection.
The Design Museum is developing its Collection ahead of its relocation to new premises at the former Commonwealth Institute, west London in 2014. The Collection is made up by over 2500 objects that range from the early Modernism of the 1900s to the cutting edge of contemporary design. The Collection also consists of a series of specialist collections, including one that contains first significant works by leading UK based designers including Tom Dixon, Kenneth Grange, James Dyson and Jasper Morrison. In addition to the Handlebar Table the Design Museum Collection also includes Morrison’s Stackable bottle rack for Magis 1994, The Air Chair for Magis 2000 and The Rowenta electric kettle, 2004.
Deyan Sudjic, Director of the Design Museum, said: ‘The acquisition of Jasper Morrison’s Handlebar Table is an exciting addition to the Design Museum’s Collection and we are very grateful to the Art Fund for their support. It is our vision to communicate a history of contemporary furniture and product design in our Collection and The Handlebar Table is a perfect example of this.’
Stephen Deuchar, Director of the Art Fund, said: ‘This is the first time the Art Fund has given a grant to the Design Museum, and we are thrilled to be supporting the museum’s bold new commitment to developing its permanent collection from the outset. The fascinating, complex and often provocative objects so often created when art and design collide are a hugely rich vein for collecting and enquiry, and we look forward to helping the Design Museum to explore this terrain further in years to come.’
The table was due to go under the hammer at Christies this month but was pulled in order to save this important piece of British design for the nation.