"The Plasticarium collection can attract the public without cultivating a sense of nostalgia"
How did the idea come about for this museum entirely dedicated to plastics in the world of design ?
The ADAM is a project led by the Atomium, a relic of the 1958 World Fair, the symbol of Brussels, the capital of Europe. Two years ago, the foundation that operates the monument decided to purchase the Plasticarium's collection from its owner, Philippe Decelle, who was seeking to sell.
We decided that the sale of this collection, brought together by its owner since 1987, was an opportunity to be seized. In particular because it was not particularly easy to access despite its obvious value in terms of heritage, and it therefore offered many possibilities as regards displaying it as part of a new cultural facility.
How does your museum project fit in with this building designed to be an exhibition centre for trade ?
The ADAM occupied 5000 m² of refurbished floor space in the Trade Mart building in Brussels which was built in 1975 to house show rooms over a surface area of 215000 m². The architectural and design project was designed by the Lhoas & Lhoas Architectes firm with the support of Thierry Belenger, a specialist in 20th century design and Alexandra Midal, a historian of design.
The designers first sought to make the most of the existing building's interior and exterior qualities. The design of the garden and the immediate surroundings was also aimed at asserting the museum's particular identity. The same train of thought led to the existing staircase at the entrance to be modified by Jean Nouvel so as to create a tubular mirrored canopy.
Inside the building, we sought to make the most of the space to create a flexible exhibition system that could easily be modified, and without seeking the crude appearance of the concrete floor and the honeycombed ceilings. Its modularity enabled us to play with transparency in order to integrate the storage spaces into the exhibition route.
How did you ensure that maximum visibility was afforded to your collection ?
From the start, the idea was to give a collective dimension to this private collection. Although it was created on the basis of personal choice, it seduced the project managers due to its completeness.
We believe that it is essential that the public can take ownership of the collection, beyond simple feelings of nostalgia, as the still-living expression of cultural and artistic expression that deserves to be shared. This enables us to make the Plasticarium more than just a static collection and turn it into the heart of a more dynamic museum project. By filling out the collection with a few acquisitions made from private collectors or other institutions. Or by fostering exchanges and activities with all players in the world of design. For instance, we exhibit pieces on loan from the Centre national des arts plastiques, in Paris.
Why did you choose not to exhibit the entire collection ?
The aim of ensuring that our collection is in tune with current events in the worlds of contemporary art and design leads us to making choices regarding the pieces that deserved to be put on display for the opening or which will be displayed at a later date, depending on themed events or our activities.
The permanent collection on display is comprised of 450 pieces of the 2000 that made up the original collection, which we wanted to fill out with around fifty creations acquired from other sources. This enables us to use this solid foundation to schedule rotations within the permanent exhibition or to put on temporary exhibitions such as "The Plasticarium collection and fashion", "The Plasticarium collection and everyday objects", etc.
The voluntary visibility of the reserves along the visitors' route contributes to the idea that the ADAM is an institution that is constantly in flux, that has a collection and the potential to evolve and to surprise its visitors.
Copyrights: Art & Design Atomium Museum (ADAM) - Elie Leon