Design Museum gets around Covid restrictions with pop-up art supermarket - Museums Association

Design Museum gets around Covid restrictions with pop-up art supermarket

Disguised exhibition aims to make statement that ‘creativity is essential’
Samyama Kolhapuri
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Inside the pop up Supermarket exhibiton designed by Camille Walala
Inside the pop up Supermarket exhibiton designed by Camille Walala The Design Museum

Supermarket is an exhibition disguised as a grocery shop, where unlike any other museum, you can instantly buy and walk out with the art. The law-abiding creative rebellion is the work of London's Design Museum, Bombay Sapphire Gin and designer Camille Walala. 

They enlisted a team of 10 emerging illustrators, artists and animators to design packaging for a number of chosen essentials with their own unique styles and imagery. 

Under the UK Government’s Covid-19 restrictions, public museums in England will remain closed until 17 May, but the creative pop-up shop is able to welcome the public this week and will remain open for five days, until 26 April.  

The organisers hope to make a vital statement, #CreativityIsEssential, which has resonated with many on social media, prompting discussions and debate. 

Charlotte Edey, an artist and illustrator who is part of the Supermarket team, said the organisers reached out to her before the government roadmap, hoping “to make creativity accessible during this time of restriction and question what we deem essential”. 

She said: “I found the idea intriguing. It feels like the opening timing perfectly mirrors the question posed in the brief, on the value of creativity.”

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“I think it’s a conversation that’s been going on over the whole lockdown,” said Joey Yu, an illustrator, animator and curator who is also part of the project. “I know the reasons they keep it shut for but for me, I think it’s so important for people to keep being inspired. Being able to see something that's the four walls of their room and just learn as well - in music form, theatre form, art form. These are things you need to see and feel in real life and it’s just not the same on the computer. So it’s definitely a debate that needs to be had.” 

Yu has applied her work to two items, Seggiano Wild Red Rice (500g) and Organic Premium Sicilian Tomato Passata (500g). She said she loved walking around supermarkets even before the project: “I love walking around and looking at packaging - the graphics - the whole language of supermarkets is so interesting to me. 

A picture of a rice box designed by Joey Yu. It has an illustrated girl gazing fondly at someone not visible on the box. She is sitting beside him/her with her hand holding him/her on the table. There is a vvase of flowers and a glass of water on the table as well. Contains shades of blue and shades of reds.
An Illustrated Rice Box By Joey Yu The Design Museum

“I loved the informal packaging and everyday prosaic setting of a supermarket as a chance to showcase something more intimate and emotional. I think it’s kind of funny to have a touching scene on a box/bottle we would maybe typically handle without much thought.”

Edey’s item, a bread bag, was designed to explore the new relationship we have with interior space after the last year’s restrictions. “The packaging illustration draws from the J.G. Ballard text, The Day of Forever, where dusk serves as the gateway to dreaming in a world where time stands still,” said Edey. 

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Other items for sale include tins of kidney beans by Kentaro Okawara, tea by Katherine Plumb, washing up liquid by Jesse Warby, and special limited-edition Bombay Sapphire gin and tonic bottles by the artist and animation director Ruff Mercy.

A bread bag illustrated by Charlotte Edey. There is a window and we can see out of it into the sky. She has used shades of blue to show its night time and the moon. There are floating white petals which move from inside to outside. It looks wispy.
An Illustrated Bread Bag By Charlotte Edey The Design Museum

All proceeds will go to the Design Museum’s new Emerging Designer Access Fund, which gives emerging artists and designers free access to the Design Museum's exhibitions, talks and events.

View the Supermarket here.

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