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Saturated: The Allure and the Science of Colour (courtesy Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum)

| Designbest editorial staff


olour is a power which directly influences the soul” Wassily Kandinsky famously said. In fact, the latest exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York focuses on this influence.

Be sure to pay a visit if you’ve planned a trip to the United States: it’s the last weekend you are able to visit Saturated: The Allure and the Science of Colour.

You are greeted by a multifaceted, rainbow-coloured universe, subdivided in seven maxi-sections. Here, you giddily move from the iconic work of designers known for the way in which they control colour, to the extremely rare first collections of the Smithsonian Library and then to the over 190 objects on display from different cultures and historical periods.

You begin with the manuscripts in which colour dances from spheres to cones and then to grids and graphic maps that give voice to naturalists, chemists and artists. There’s Coloritto written by Jacob Christophe Le Blon in 1725, the first text that documents the method of creating secondary colours by mixing primary colours together, Opticks by Isaac Newton, the scientist that at the beginning of the eighteenth century studied light through a prism and the Theory of colours written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in 1810, an essay on colour perception.

The narrative then focuses on the contemporary objects that investigate the psychedelic aspect of colour such as J.M. Schmetterling, a pendant lamp by Ingo Maurer (2011) or the posters designed by Victor Moscovo in 1967, antiques that have witnessed the creation of colour such as the Sirian Aryballos vases from the III and the V centuries or the Huipil, the traditional Mexican, long-sleeved dress.

Natural colours are combined with lab-produced synthetic ones and the museum is transformed into large paint palette that touches on communication (a striking example is Massimo Vignelli’s 1974 diagram of the New York subway, here he adopted an 8-colour palette to codify the city’s complex rail network), research and style (alight in front of Verner Panton’s Dècor textiles, here eight shades of turquoise-blue project geometric patterns playing with the colour gradation).

The exhibition itinerary is a constant discovery that illustrates the extent colours influence our everyday lives. It’s no coincidence that in the fields of fashion, beauty and interior design, people have learned an univocal code to work with colours and how to manipulate them to alter the perception of a product and to predict the trends.

Saturated focuses on this awareness and describes, in a spectacular, evocative kaleidoscope the intrinsic connection between mankind and the shades of the world.


Where: Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, 2 East 91st Street, New York

When: Until13th January 2019


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