More than a mere place, the MUDE Design and Fashion Museum in Lisbon is also a time in history: a museum where you can discover the objects that helped define the 20th century.
The Bocca sofa also known as Marylin Lips, the famous portaits of Michael Jackson, Madonna and Grace Jones, and the tiny BMW Isetta: each item represents a period of the 20th century when people valued how things were made, whether handcrafted or factory-produced, and design mattered.
In the heart of Lisbon, the MUDE Design and Fashion Museum is an open invitation to lose yourself in a fascinating collection of items spanning the early 20th century to today. Those who walk in just out of curiosity are invariably surprised by the wealth on show inside the old building in Rua Augusta.
Home to a permanent collection and many temporary exhibitions, the MUDE never ceases to amaze, as do many of the design and fashion artefacts on display. The main collection was put together from the Francisco Capelo collection acquired by the Lisbon Municipal Council, which spans the century when industrialisation and new materials made dreams of mass production come true.
The ground floor focuses on the history of design and fashion from their beginnings to the present day. After industrialisation made mass production possible, design became a technical subject which aimed at providing the best solutions for objects, balancing aesthetic qualities with functionality. Between 1924 and 1933, Modernism and the primacy of functionality led to a quest for the object-type, as is evident in the furniture on display at the museum.
However, from 1945 until the 1960s the world changed dramatically. The economic miracle and the expression “Good Design” came to define how design was perceived. The 1959 BMW Isetta is a fine example of how the post-war society rethought design as products adapted to new needs and ways of life. Plastic also became the “must have” material as it was both mouldable and colourful.
The 1960s were dominated by a spatial dream, as can be seen in the colours and forms of the objects on display at the MUDE, that generated a futuristic iconography. The miniskirt became one of the main design icons of the decade.
Then along come the 1970s, changing once again the paradigm for design and fashion. The late 1960s and the 1970s were marked by important countercultural movements, such as the opposition to the Vietnam war, reflected in objects that translate the shift in world views and changing attitudes interested in seeking pleasure and freedom, like the 1970 Bocca sofa by Studio 65 (also named Marylin Lips, after 1972). The influence of countercultures was also greatly manifested in shock-chic and anti-fashion, with anti-bourgeoisie slogans.
During the 1980s and 1990s, fashion and design became a fertile ground for contrasting different styles, which MUDE displays with some iconic pieces of furniture and clothing from the time. Until 2007, design continued to innovate with new objects that looked upon modern heritage without dogmatism. Hybrid and interdisciplinary works, like the 1993 coat and skirt in polyester by Junya Watanabe, characterised this period.
The whole collection was gathered by Francisco Capelo, a Portuguese design collector, who then sold it to the state in 2003. The collection was previously on display at the Centro Cultural de Belém in Lisbon. Francisco Capelo, an economist connected with investment banking, was also responsible for setting up the famous Berardo collection, one of Portugal’s most important modern and contemporary art collections belonging to businessman Joe Berardo and which is housed in the Berardo Museum which takes up a large area of the Centro Cultural de Belém.
At MUDE, the first floor takes up temporary exhibitions like the “Modern Classics – Objects from the Calouste Gulbenkian Collection”, which takes us through objects designed by the likes of Marcel Brener, Gerri Rietveld, Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and Alvar Aalto, to mention but a few. These are “icons of Modernism”, as MUDE Director Bárbara Coutinho described them before the exhibition was opened.
The Bocca sofa
The famous Bocca sofa is an iconic piece from the 1970s. It also became known as Marylin Lips in the US after 1972. Its bright red full forms take inspiration from Surrealism and from actress and sex-symbol Mae West, admired by Salvador Dalí who designed the original piece in 1936, before Italian design and architecture practice Studio 65 made it famous. Today, only about 1000 of these sofas exist in the world.Bocca sofa
Polyurethane foam, nylon
The Junya Watanabe coat and skirt
The spirit of the 1990s, with its eclectic views and modern materials, can be seen in these pieces. Junya Watanabe is a Japanese fashion designer, working for Comme des Garçons. His innovative and distinctive designs use technical materials, such as non-natural fibres. He began showing his work in Paris the same year this coat and skirt were made, in 1993.
Junya Watanabe, Comme des Garçons
The BMW Isetta
The tiny car that fits comfortably in a corner at MUDE is a symbol of how accessible design became after the Second World War and how much it had changed since the 1930s. In this case, it also reveals one of the outcomes of the Marshall Plan that enabled Europe (and Germany) to get back on its feet, allowing people to buy their own cars only 14 years after the war ended. Although the design is Italian, it was also produced in France, the United Kingdom, Belgium and Brazil.
The glass vases were created by Dino Martens and Fulvio Bianconi, two acclaimed Italian painters and designers. Martens used asymmetric designs and original effects to give new meaning to Venetian glass, while Bianconi was famous for his artistic, unique Murano glass pieces. The two pieces displayed at the MUDE are part of the 1950s exhibit.
Murano glass Pezzato Vase
Murano glass (pezzato tecnique) MUDE, Design and Fashion Museum
Rua Augusta, 24 Lisbon
Telephone: (+ 351) 21 888 61 17 / 23
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Admission: Free of charge
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 6pm (Last entry: 5.45pm); Closed on Mondays
Getting to the Museum:
Metro: Terreiro do Paço or Baixa Chiado stations
Tram: 15, 25
Buses: 711, 745, 794,36, 44, 714, 732, 759, 760, 781,782