Exhibiting Confrontations: Negotiating Dutch Design between National and Global Imaginations

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Before the 2000s design occupied a peripheral position in Dutch international cultural policy (ICP). In the first decade of the twenty-first century ‘Dutch Design’ rose as a key player in the Dutch creative industries, which were assigned a central role in ICP. The formulation of Dutch Design as a creative industry and the embeddedness of the creative industries in identity politics and in geopolitical, economic and diplomatic interests raise urgent questions regarding the essentialist articulation of Dutchness that Dutch Design proposes. Can Dutch Design, formulated as a creative industry enshrined in ICP, represent a conceptualization of Dutchness that corresponds with the empirical heterogeneity and transnationality of the practice of Dutch Design? Or would this entail the dissolution of the very notion of Dutch Design? As a case study, this article traces the negotiations between the Vitra Design Museum and the Dutch national design institutions in charge of implementing ICP in the execution of the exhibition ‘Confrontations: Contemporary Dutch Design’, held at the Vitra Design Museum Gallery in 2012. It examines how the dynamics of the practical implementation of ICP may accommodate—as well as limit—the construction of the Dutchness of Dutch Design.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-286
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Design History
Issue number3
Early online date4 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2016


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