Saturday19 August 2017

Design Museum buys collection from eBay

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Online auction site has become an increasingly common way for museums to acquire exhibits

The Design Museum is using eBay to buy objects for its permanent collection which will fill the top floor of its new John Pawson-designed home in Kensington.

The permanent collection includes an iMac computer, a Kindle, a Dyson vacuum cleaner, an Anglepoise lamp, 290 chairs, 24 televisions and a nappy.

Larger items include a Vespa scooter, a bus shelter designed by Kenneth Grange and a K6 phone box designed by Giles Gilbert Scott.

Deyan Sudjic

Deyan Sudjic

The museum has been building up the collection for 25 years, after it began to receive bequests and donations.

It now totals more than 3,000 items but is still expanding.

“We have a specific fund for growing the collection which is a generous donation from the Conran Foundation,” said museum director Deyan Sudjic.

“We have started to supplement that with the Art Fund, which helped us towards the cost of acquiring one of Jasper Morrison’s earliest designs, the Handlebar Table.”

The museum’s use of eBay was praised by commentator Edwin Heathcote.

“It’s a commendable way of building a cheap collection,” he said.

The online auction site has become an increasingly common way for museums to acquire exhibits.

But it is not without controversy. The Museums Association recently posted an “ethical debate” on the use of eBay on its website.

Roger Bland, head of treasure and portable antiques at the British Museum, warned the site had become a “major outlet for unprovenanced antiquities… many of which may be illicit”.

He helped set up a partnership with eBay and the Metropolitan Police to monitor historic objects sold on eBay and to ensure sellers have the right to trade them. 



Readers' comments (1)

  • Given the government's views on arts funding the time to worry may be when museums are forced to put stuff on ebay!

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