Dyson quits 'style over substance' Design Museum
Tuesday 28 September 2004
Despite a mutual passion for all things design-related, it appears a creative clash has arisen between James Dyson, the vacuum-cleaner inventor and Alice Rawsthorn, the director of the Design Museum.
Yesterday, Mr Dyson announced his resignation as chair of the Design Museum due to his concerns that the institution was placing style over substance. Mr Dyson revealed his intention to quit his post of five years in a terse letter sent to fellow trustees in which he claimed that the central London museum was "betraying" its original purpose.
He claimed the museum had become a style showcase that was failing to rekindle public interest in technology and industry. It was "no longer true to its original vision" laid out by its founder Sir Terence Conran, according to Mr Dyson.
His outspoken critique of the museum's direction is likely to be interpreted as a condemnation of her management. Since Ms Rawsthorn was appointed director three years ago, she has reportedly assumed full curatorial control over the museum's exhibitions and content.
In his letter, Mr Dyson blamed the apparent shift in balance of exhibitions on curatorial steer, over which he and his 11 fellow trustees - including Sir Terence and Lord Palumbo, the former Arts Council chairman - were barred from having any say. He added that the deciding factor for his resignation was the closure of the Conran Foundation Collection, a display of inventions and domestic design products, to make way for an exhibition on Constance Spry, the Fifties flower arranger.
"Design can be about manufacturing and engineering too. It is not something to be ashamed of, it should be celebrated," he said. Yesterday, a statement released on behalf of Mr Dyson added: "Today, without Sir Terence Conran's curatorial guide, James Dyson believes the balance has shifted to iconography and style. It is no longer true to its original vision."
In a statement issued yesterday, Ms Rawsthorn said: "James Dyson has made a major contribution to the success of the Design Museum as chairman over the past five years... We wish him every success in his new project." The search for a new chairman will start soon.
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