Plastic

2007: The Thrill of Collecting

AXA ART presents the thrill of collecting plastic at TEFAF Maastricht

AXA Art will stage an unusual exhibition of works of art, jewellery and furniture all made of plastic at TEFAF Maastricht which takes place at the Maastricht Exhibition and Congress Centre (MECC) from Friday 9 to Sunday 18 March 2007.  For the fourth year AXA Art is proud to sponsor the world’s leading art and antiques fair and, following the success of their 2006 Thrill of Collecting exhibition, The Thrill of Collecting II: Plastic will take pride of place on their main stand.  In addition, their infobooth at the entrance to the fair will focus on stolen works of art and the prevention of theft (see separate press release).

As prices for design items and modern art rise, plastic has become the focus of attention for conservators and collectors who will benefit from AXA Art’s support of research projects undertaken in partnership with a number of museums including the Vitra Design Museum (Germany)*, MOMA (USA) and Tate Modern in London**.  The display of plastic objects in The Thrill of Collecting II: Plastic will illustrate the evolution of the use of plastic in design and modern art and the attendant problems associated with the conservation and restoration of this material. 

AXA Art will also launch at TEFAF its new publication Plastic Art – A Precarious Success Story by Stefan Albus, Christian Bonten, Kathrin Kessler, Gabriela Rossi and Thomas Wessel.  This useful and informative 90-page book is the first to deal with the conservation of art made of plastic materials and is a practical result of the AXA Art Research Grant.  The authors will be available on AXA Art’s main stand on Friday 9 March to answer questions. 

The objects to be displayed in The Thrill of Collecting II: Plastic date from the 1940s to 2005, the earliest piece being ‘La Chaise’ made by the legendary Charles and Ray Eames in 1948 for the International competition for Low-Cost Furniture Design, organised by New York’s Museum of Modern Art.  This is one of the pieces that has been conserved through the AXA Art conservation project.  The foam in the base and seat needed to be stabilised and preparations for this included carrying out a number of tests including artificially aging Vitra foam mushrooms corresponding in size and shape to the seat.  The test results were carefully reviewed, the application tested and the seat was successfully restored last Spring. 

Other chairs on show will be the prototype of the striking curved stacking chair by Verner Panton, 1958-67, a cult piece which is the focus of an AXA Art Research Grant, as is the Gaetano Pesce Pratt chair, No. 2, 1984, which has so weakened over the years that it has collapsed into a mass of wrinkles and waves. 

A much more recent object will be the chandelier ‘Vortexx’ (pictured) by Zaha Hadid and Patrik Schumacher in collaboration with Sawaya & Moroni that was exhibited for the first time at the design fair in Milan in 2005.  The white version of this striking swirl of light will hang over the AXA stand illuminating other works of art such as four acrylic glass paintings by Michael Jäger, 1994/95, ‘Loopy’, a plexiglass sculpture by Won Yu Lim, 2005, and ‘Spume after Trace’, a shaped polyurethane wallpiece by Gabriel Orozco, 2001.

The wide range of pieces also includes The Valentine typewriter by Ettore Sottsass, 1969, ‘Paintaint Conflict’, an iris digital print and synthetic colour on textile and aluminium structure by Fabiano Marcaccio, 1998, and an aluminium photograph/light box by Kazuo Katase, 1995.  There will also be a large group of pieces by Gaetano Pesce including several of his fanciful Amazonia vases, circa 2004/5, a fish design Pompitu vase, his ‘Look at Me’ mirror and five multi-coloured bracelets including one in the form of a curled snake.

The extensive use of various types of plastic by artists and designers in the 20th century has thrown up many problems for the conservation of plastic objects in museums and private collections.  Experience has shown that objects made of plastics degrade more rapidly than those of traditional materials and, when some types of plastic material are in the process of degrading, chemicals are released that can damage other items in their immediate vicinity.  For this reason AXA Art and the Vitra Design Museum instigated a joint project to learn how to conserve and restore plastic items.  Owners of plastic artefacts are advised to protect them from exposure to direct sunlight and store them in open conditions in well-ventilated rooms at a constant temperature.  They should be regularly checked for signs of degradation and handled carefully as over time they can become fragile and brittle.

The Thrill of Collecting II: Plastic will show visitors that collecting can encompass not only traditional works of art, so many of which will be on display at TEFAF, but also 20th and 21st century objects by great artists and designers made in more unconventional materials.  AXA Art aims to encourage collecting while offering the best expert advice on how to care for and protect all kinds of works of art, whether in private houses, museums or churches, to ensure their survival for future generations.


  • © AXA ART Versicherung AG, 2014