Bretzels & German beer – we celebrate Ulm School of Design opening!

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It’s cold outside as Melbourne turns on one of its winter days (sunny and beguiling one minute, storm forecast and rain the next) but city workers, art lovers & RMIT Staff and students who pop into RMIT Gallery at 6 pm tonight for the opening of the Ulm School of Design exhibition will be greeted warmly with German beer and bretzels.

The exhibition will be opened by Michael R Pearce SC, Honorary Consul-General of the Federal Republic of Germany in Melbourne, with a special address by Dr Martin Mäntele, Director of the HfG Archive, and Dr Arpad Sölter, the Director of the Goethe-Institut Australien.

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For those unable to share the evening with us, please join us at 12.30-1.30 pm at RMIT Gallery on Friday 1 August for the curator floor talk with Dr Martin Mäntele (pictured) from HfG Archive, and learn about the design & social theory behind the famed ‘Ulm Model’ approach to design methodology. This extended across the five departments; industrial design; visual communication; film; information (journalism) and building and embraced studies ranging from subjects such as semiotics, technology, ergonomics, sociology, and linguistics. 

Still modern: The Ulm School of Design at RMIT Gallery

Aerial view of the Ulm School of Design

From 1953 until it closed in 1968 the Ulm School of Design (Hochschule für Gestaltung or HfG – pictured above in 1955) was one of the world’s most important contemporary design academies. Regarded as being second only to the Bauhaus, the Ulm School of Design reflected the spirit of change in Germany in the postwar years, and revolutionised artistic and architectural thinking and production.

The influence of Germany’s Ulm School of Design will be explored in an international touring exhibition at RMIT Gallery from 1-30 August 2014. RMIT Gallery Director Suzanne Davies said the exhibition reflected the designer’s role in helping to build a democratic society in a technologically driven age of mass production.

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One of the displays in the exhibition pays tribute to one of the founders, Inge Scholl, whose commitment for the foundation of the Ulm School of Design cannot be separated from her experience during the Third Reich. Her siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl were given death sentences and executed in 1943 for their ‘White Rose’ resistance campaign. Inge Scholl documented the movement in her book The White Rose (pictured above) in 1952. It went on to be published in many editions and to be translated into numerous languages.

As documented in the substantial catalogue (available to purchase at RMIT Gallery), the anti-Facist, humanistic efforts of co-founders Inge Scholl and her future husband, designer Otl Aicher toward the construction of a democratic society formed the essential impulse behind the founding of the Ulm School.

Otl Aicher in class

The legacy is evident in Ulm School co-founder Otl Aicher’s (pictured above, with students) designs such as the system of pictograms for the 1972 Munich Olympics; the Rotis type font and the design for German airline Lufthansa’s corporate branding which involved graphic design, logos, typography and packaging.

Lufthansa corporate identity

The Ulm School of Design exhibition at RMIT Gallery was assembled by the Hochschule für Gestaltung Archive, a department of the Ulm Museum, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Ulm School of Design, and ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen) the German institute for international cultural relations. Ms Davies the relationship between RMIT Gallery and the Goethe-Institut, and Ifa, is finely matched and mutually rewarding.

Ulm School of Design Exhibition opens 31 July 6 pm

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The installation of the Ulm School of Design exhibition at RMIT Gallery (opening 31 July 6 pm) began on Friday 25 July under the supervision of artist Jochen Saueracker who for 20 years was Nam June Paik’s assistant at the Düsseldorf Art Academy.

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From the iconic Braun T3 radio, to the design for German airline Lufthansa’s corporate branding, and even the ubiquitous stackable white tableware, the influence of Germany’s Ulm School of Design will be explored in an international touring exhibition at RMIT Gallery from 1-30 August 2014.


Preparing for Ulm School Of Design exhibition


gallery 1IMG_4602The impressive large doors up the short flight of steps that elevate RMIT Gallery from the hustle and bustle of busy Swanston Street are currently shut as we prepare for the upcoming exhibition Ulm School of Design. (1 August – 30 August) and the opening night celebration at 6 pm on Thursday 31 July.


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To celebrate the successful international tour of the design exhibition by ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen) RMIT Gallery, as the last venue to host the Ulm exhibition, are inviting guests to join us for bretzels and German beer as Michael R Pearce SC, Honorary Consul-General of the Federal Republic of Germany in Melbourne officially opens the show, with a special address by Dr Arpad Sölter, the Director of the Goethe-Institut Australien. All welcome.

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The Ulm School of Design exhibition focuses on research into, and visualization of, the “Ulm Model,” exploring its effects up to the present day. Using large-format photos, text panels, an illustrated synopsis, models, graphic works, draft designs, products, a “tower of books,” and videos, the exhibition is divided into clearly delineated sections: background and contemporary history, details of the building and biographies of founding members, theoretical principles and results, visual communication, industrial design, building, developmental groups, film, and interviews with former teachers and students.


fragile IMG_4596From 1953 until it closed in 1968 the influential Ulm School of Design in Germany was one of the world’s most important contemporary design academies. Regarded as being second only to the Bauhaus, the German School of Design that revolutionised artistic and architectural thinking and production world, the Ulm School rejected design as an artistic activity, and focused instead on inter-disciplinary work and objective design analysis.

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The special methodology used in Ulm is still internationally influential today in design teaching. Known as the “Ulm Model,” it has helped define what it means to be a professional industrial designer. Systematic thinking and logically-argued design processes offered rational, technically-oriented solutions to a modern mass society, made possible by scientific and technological progress in new materials, media, and techniques.

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The Ulm School of Design’s highly strict methodology and understanding of corporate identity, branding and communications theory resulted in iconic mid twentieth century designs that remain utterly modern, such as the design for German airline Lufthansa’s corporate branding which involved graphic design, logos, typography and packaging, and the system of pictograms designed for the 1972 Munich Olympics by Otl Aicher (1922-1991) co-founder of the Ulm School of Design.

As part of the exhibition, RMIT Gallery will be hosting two important design based public programs – free. Bookings recommended (03) 9925 1717.

Friday 1 August 12.30-1.30 pm: Dr. Martin Mäntele, director of the HfG-Archive: The Story of the Ulm School of Design 1953-1968.

Tuesday 12 August: 12.30-1.30 pm Malte Wagenfeld, RMIT, Industrial Designer: The social focus, thinking and impact of the Ulm School and German design in the 60 -to early 80s.








Beyond the Ragasphere


slide guitar hero and Suzanne IMG_6299RMIT Gallery Director Suzanne Davies rubbed shoulders with Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya – acclaimed ‘Guitar God of the Subcontinent’ at the Victorian Arts Centre after the lap slide guitar hero’s one-night-only show of Indian ragas on 16 July 2014 at the Fairfax Studio. Suzanne – who has curated numerous exhibitions in India – said Debashish’s playing was ‘bliss’.

Here is a live recording of beautiful Hindustani music from the Darbar Festival on Friday 20 September 2013, which showcases Debashish’s mesmerising mastery of slide guitar.

Suzanne was appointed to the Australia-India Council, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, in 2004, serving as the Chair in 2009. She recently curated RMIT Gallery’s successful touring exhibition Kindness/Udarta Australia-India Cultural Exchange and Power Cloths of the Commonwealth, Australia’s cultural presence in the Commonwealth Games cultural program in Delhi in 2010.  Suzanne visits India on average twice a year.





Then & Now: Storey Hall – home of RMIT Gallery

Did you come to RMIT Gallery to see the blockbuster music exhibition 2013-2014 exhibition “Music, Melbourne and Me: 40 Year’s of Melbourne’s Popular Music Culture”? Perhaps you recall going to see bands in Storey Hall in the 1970s…Working at RMIT Gallery in the grand old building on Swanston Street in the heart of Melbourne where RMIT University’s city campus is located, means working with layers of the past and all the stories people confide about their own memories of the building in years gone by.


A short pictorial guide to the background of Storey Hall has been published in RMIT’s online Alumni Magazine featuring this great old photo.

Storey Hall then-1

The Alumni Magazine article got us thinking about how different RMIT Gallery looks now – and how little the beautifully preserved facade has really changed over the years. Here are some of the ways that the RMIT Gallery facade has been tweaked slightly during various exhibitions.

2013 – 2014


Music, Melbourne and Me: 40 years of Mushroom and Melbourne’s Popular Music Culture 19 November 2013 – 22 February 2014, Photo: Mark Ashkanasy. The gorgeous neon lured visitors to the blockbuster music exhibition, curated by Suzanne Davies and Dr Kipps Horn.


That’s the queue to get into the exhibition on closing night which coincided with White Night Melbourne on Saturday 22 February 2014 when RMIT Gallery was open from 7 pm to 7 am. People waited for up to an hour to get inside….







Experimenta Speak to Me – 5th International Biennial of Media Art,  14 September – 17 November 2012. Staff loved this piece as late at night, people would be pushing against the front door trying to get in, convinced it was one of Melbourne’s infamous secret clubs. We would also delight in watching people take selfies with Shimura’s work glowing around them.

Artwork by:

Nobuhiro Shimura

Red Carpet, 2010
edition 1/5
digital video projection
Purchased through the RMIT Art Fund, 2012
Acc. no: RMIT.2013.3
Main image courtesy Mark Ashkanasy, opening night photo by Vicki Jones.

Zandra Rhodes: A Lifelong Love Affair with Textiles Monday 11 February – Saturday 22 March

Neon Sign (5)

Zandra Rhodes: A Life Long Love Affair with Textiles showcased the stunning creations of fashion doyenne Zandra Rhodes at RMIT Gallery in the UK designer’s first major retrospective in Australia. The exhibition, co curated by RMIT Gallery Director Suzanne Davies, charted the designer’s creative progress from initial inspiration to the finished product, bringing to life many of her iconic designs over the past four decades.

Neon Sign (3)


Exhibition Signage Swanston Street (1)

Heat: Art and Climate Change, Friday 12 September – Saturday 18 October 2008.

A living sign for Australia’s first climate change exhibition, curated by Linda Williams and Suzanne Davies. Photos: Mark Ashkanasy.






RMIT Gallery commemorates the 30th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley with the exhibition Living Elvis – Friday 17 August – 20 October 2007. Photos: Mark Ashkanasy.