The Vitra Design Museum is dedicated to the research and presentation of design, past and present, and examines design’s relationship to architecture, art and everyday culture. In the main museum building by Frank Gehry, the museum annually mounts two major temporary exhibitions. Smaller parallel shows are presented in the Vitra Design Museum Gallery, a neighbouring exhibition space. Often developed with renowned designers, many of the museum’s exhibitions cover highly relevant contemporary themes, such as future technologies, sustainability or questions like mobility and social awareness. Others address historical aspects or protagonists.
The work of the Vitra Design Museum is based on its collection, which encompasses not only key objects of design history, but also the estates of several important figures like Charles & Ray Eames, George Nelson, Verner Panton and Alexander Girard. The museum library and document archive are available to researchers upon request. The museum conceives its exhibitions for touring, and they are shown at venues around the world. On the Vitra Campus, they are complemented by a diverse programme of events, guided tours and workshops.
It was founded in 1989 by the company Vitra and its owner Rolf Fehlbaum. It has its headquarters in a building by the Californian architect Frank Gehry. Originally envisioned as a private collector’s museum, the museum initially produced smaller exclusive exhibitions, such as on Erich Dieckmann or the then little-known Ron Arad. In the 1990s, the first major internationally acclaimed exhibitions were presented by the museum, including retrospectives on Charles and Ray Eames, Frank Lloyd Wright and Luis Barragán along with influential thematic exhibitions on Czech Cubism and the future of mobility. Parallel to this, the museum initiated its highly successful system of travelling exhibitions and began to develop its own product lines to help finance the programme of cultural activities. At the same time, the museum’s collection was continually expanded and an independent publishing house was established. In 2011, the museum inaugurated a second exhibition space, the Vitra Design Museum Gallery. Since 2012, an initial selection from the collection can be viewed online at www.design museum.de/100masterpieces.
From 1989 to 2010, the museum was led by its founding director Alexander von Vegesack. Since 2011, the museum has been under a new directorship headed by Mateo Kries and Marc Zehntner.