Artistic legacies are an important part of human history, preserved in museums and monuments the world over. Relics and priceless artefacts can be immortalised in other ways as well. Royal Selangor is collaborating with the British Museum on a collection of home-ware and personal accessories inspired by the rich artistic legacy of the early Europeans.
The British Museum was founded in 1753 and was the first national public museum in the world. It tells the stories of cultures across the world, from the dawn of human history to the present, and features a wide range of design inspirations from the Iron Age, Anglo-Saxon, Celtic and Viking cultures. Each artefact in the museum showcases the ingenuity of the early Europeans who borrowed from other cultures and reinterpreted these ideas into their signature styles.
“The story of Early European art is one of change. Ancient motifs were reinvented, reimagined and combined to form new artistic creations that merge classical and local styles. We worked closely with the curators to identify key objects that tell this story through stylish, functional designs.” said Yong Yoon Li, executive director of RoyalSelangor International.
At an event to launch the new collection, Yong, along with Royal Selangor executive director of marketing Chen Tien Yue and British High Commissioner Her Excellency Vicki Treadell, introduced media and guests to pieces in the collaboration.
One standout piece is a tea caddy, inspired by the Sutton Hoo helmet. The original helmet was unearthed at Sutton Hoo, one of the most famous archaeological digs in Britain, and its intricate zoomorphic, figurative motifs, and face mask are now an iconic symbol of Anglo-Saxon culture.
Another notable piece in the collection is a tankard, featuring delicate animal-shaped motifs from one of the Basse-Yutz flagons unearthed in France. Other pieces include a vase, letter opener, pendant, photo frame, cufflinks, trinket box, valet tray and candle stand.
Earlier, Yong shared his thoughts on the collection, where he jokingly claimed he is not a history buff.
“I think the association with museums is pretty important because the wealth of information is very vital to our design team, it’s just very inspiring, seeing all this stuff, talking to the curators, have one-on-one communication with them, it’s the kind of thing money cannot buy,” he said.
“The second thing, was the collaborative ding-dong between us and the museum, it helped not only to inspire our designers but work their minds a little bit, not just on the designs but the way of life, for example, the National Palace Museum, working with calligraphy, why do people write so much? Each calligrapher has a different style, they learned to appreciate stuff like that.”
Treadell, in her speech to the attendees, expressed her pride in how history has been preserved through collaborations with Royal Selangor, and why heritage is important.
“To see them, and touch them, to be inspired by them, to bring them back to designers to recreate the elements for all of us to enjoy, to admire, to own and have in our rooms, that value of culture and heritage is so important, in a world today when we forget about what really matters in life.
“It doesn’t seem we have time for culture, history and heritage, and so much culture and history is being lost. To succeed we have to hold our history in our hearts to remember where we came from and the great works of arts, because we need food for the soul as much as we need food for our bodies, we need inspirations, we need things that we can look at, that inspire us,” she said.
Yong believes the need to decorate, to beautify rooms in a space, be it an office or a home, has been a part of the human condition since the beginning of time.
“Humans, have been doing that for the past few thousands of years, I thought it was quite interesting to open those doors to the museum to realise that mankind have been decorating since the dawn of time and that’s what I think what we do well as a brand,” he said.
The British Museum Collection is the latest in a long line of museum collaborations. Previously, Royal Selangorcollaborated on The Imperial Collection with the National Palace Museum, Taipei, which started in 2012, Arabesque with the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (IAMM) which began in 2006, and on collections such as The Inspired, V&A Collection and Tracery, through a 22-year partnership with the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum.
The beauty of Chinese art and culture is highlighted in The Imperial Collection, which reinterprets artworks dating from Southern Song to Qing dynasty, into homeware and personal accessories, including tea accessories consisting of a teapot and tea caddies by renowned Hong Kong designer Freeman Lau that depict works of renowned calligraphers and scholars.
Through Arabesque, the link between modern life and Islamic art is explored – Arabesque is derived from symbols, patterns and motifs, focusing on Islamic geometry, calligraphy and architecture.
Royal Selangor’s collaboration with the V&A Museum, the world’s leading museum of decorative art and design, has been further explored recently in the roaring twenties-themed Streamline, and William Morris.
The bold circular imagery in Streamline evokes the geometric elegance of the abstract motifs favoured by Marion Dorn, an iconic 20th century textile designer whose works adorned The Berkeley, Claridge’s and The Savoy.
The grape and vine motif derived from the ornamental book borders printed on the titular 19th century artist’s private press is recreated in detail on William Morris wine accessories.