SEX APPEAL

The 20th century is the age of mass-produced, mass-broadcast sex. Anyone who wasn't raised by dingos in the Australian outback can clock that truism about capitalism in less time than it takes to consume a Haagen- Dazs. But the process of sexualising objects started way before ice-cream companies decided to imbue their frozen yoghurts with something a bit more potent than freeze-dried strawberries.

This week, a new exhibtion opens at London's Design Museum which attempts to map the erotic tradition of commercial art, fashion, advertising and design from Mucha to Madonna. The Power of Erotic Design traces the commodification of sex from the fin-de-siecle European city to the Sony Playstation. Discover how the writings of Freud and George Bataille influenced the work of artists such as Man Ray, and how Surrealist visions of the subconscious filtered through to Hitchcock's Hollywood and the fabrics, jewellery and perfume bottles of Schiaparelli. "When he talks, Gillette blades, razors, bits of glass, enchanted gardens and monstrous flowers in colours never seen before come out of his mouth," said a fellow student of the Italian designer Carlo Mollino, whose work comprises some of the less familiar artefacts on display. Eroticising speed, fluidity and the female form, Mollino specialised in curvaceous mirrors, desks and chairs. Other highlights include Masanori Umeda's Rose Chair and Anthon Beeke's Erotic Alphabet (both above right). For fetishistic fashion, look no further than the outrageous clothes of Belgian designer Walter von Beirondonck (see cover). The museum is also showcasing individual objects chosen by the likes of Alexander McQueen, Jean Paul Gaultier and John Maybury - artefacts which question why designers invest everyday objects with eroticism, or if, in fact, eroticism is solely in the eye of the beholder. The Design Museum, London SE1 (0171-403 6933) 1 May-12 Oct

LS

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