Bakelite - The Georg Kargl Collection

Bakelite: The Georg Kargl Collection

As the first genuine plastic, Bakelite revolutionized the everyday culture from the 1920s to the 1950s. On view at the MAK from July 15 through October 26, 'Bakelite: The Georg Kargl Collection' exhibition is devoted to this extraordinary raw material.

300 objects from the private collection of the Viennese gallery owner Georg Kargl (1955‒2018) provide an insight into the material's versatile possibilities of use and its aesthetic legacy.

Bakelite, the first industrially manufactured, fully synthetic raw material based on resins, enabled the cheap mass production of everyday objects in an almost unlimited variety of forms-from telephones to picnic boxes and radios. The MAK exhibition traces the history of Bakelite from its meteoric rise to an icon of modern product culture to its displacement by other plastics on account of ecological considerations.

The exhibition encompasses objects from the period between 1930 and 1970, which share an austere aesthetic. This aesthetic results from an intrinsic relationship between expected function, the material's technological properties and possibilities, and available production processes.

The objects are presented in fourteen subject groups in an exhibition display specially designed by the artist Mladen Bizumic. On show are, among other things, electrical appliances like fans, hairdryers, coffee grinders, irons and vacuum cleaners, means of communication such as telephones, radio and television sets (the Bush TV set from the UK) and loudspeakers, the iconic Jumo lamps from 1920s France, cameras, car models, as well as the baby monitor designed by Isamu Noguchi.

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