V&A Dundee introduces new objects and Lavender Labels to Scottish Design Galleries

A series of new objects have been introduced to the Scottish Design Galleries at V&A Dundee this month. As part of this latest rotation, the new objects explore themes such as women in architecture, activism, LGBTQ+ history, and how design has impacted our town centres and mental healthcare.

The rotation of objects in the Scottish Design Galleries is a key element of its constant evolution and development. Identifying objects that tell more of Scotland’s stories and interpreting them for all audiences is a vital part of the curatorial process. V&A Dundee has been working alongside institutions from across Scotland, specialist advisors and community groups, to challenge assumptions about Scottish design history by bringing in broader perspectives.
This rotation coincides with the recent addition of Lavender Labels throughout the gallery, which explore LGBTQ+ connections to some of the objects.

Meredith More, Curator at V&A Dundee said: “The new objects we are bringing in this year explore how architecture and design can make the world a better place to live. We have included more women in the selection and have also tried to show the way often the grand ideas of architects and designers are adapted by the communities who use the spaces day to day. We have also introduced themes such as mental health and the environment into the gallery.”

New to the Scottish Design Galleries

Designs for High Sunderland (1956)

By Peter Womersley, Scotland, Watercolour on paper. Lent by the Klein Family

High Sunderland was designed as a modernist home in the Scottish Borders for Serbian-born textile designer Bernat Klein and his family. The architect Peter Womersley designed a rectangular house with a low profile, open-plan layout and sunken living room. Views of the surrounding landscape are framed by large plate glass windows, leading his daughter Shelley, who grew up there, to think of it as a ‘see-through house’. To Klein, High Sunderland was so much more than a house, it was a way of living.

The house was recently shortlisted for the 2022 RIAS Doolan Award following a restoration by Loader Monteith.
V&A Dundee is delighted to mark the centenary of Bernat Klein with the inclusion of this object.

Posters for Castlemilk Womanhouse (1990)

By Women in Profile, Glasgow, Collage and ink on paper. Glasgow Women’s Library

In 1990 a grassroots arts organisation, Women in Profile, worked with local women and children in Castlemilk to repurpose four flats in an empty tenement block. Known as the Castlemilk Womanhouse, it was a collaborative artwork and a gathering place with exhibitions, classes, workshops and a free crèche.
Many of the women who used and helped to run Womanhouse were single mothers, as Castlemilk was one of the main areas in Glasgow where the authorities housed single parent families.
Inspired by the feminist Womanhouse created by American artists Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro in the 1970s, Women in Profile wanted to turn ‘housework’ into an empowering, creative force that would help women take control of their own lives.

Plan for Montrose Royal Lunatic Asylum (later Sunnyside Asylum) 1879

James Lausoun, Inverquiech, Ink and watercolours on paper backed with linen. University of Dundee Archive Services

This asylum was the first of its kind in Scotland and was used as a model for other institutions across the country. It was set up in 1781 by Susan Carnegie as a dedicated place to care for people with mental illnesses, who at the time often ended up in the town prison. The asylum’s extensive grounds are shown on this plan, where patients were encouraged to spend time outdoors and even work in the gardens and on the farm. Although there were many problems with 19th century asylums, especially regarding diagnosis, their belief that green space was good for mental health is something being reintroduced into healthcare settings today.

Drawing of Cumbernauld Town Centre, Phase 1 1963 -4

Drawing by Michael Evans of Geoffrey Copcutt’s design Cumbernauld. Marker pen on paper. On loan from Historic Environment Scotland (RIAS Collection)

This drawing captures the utopian ambitions of Cumbernauld town centre. It was built in 1963-72 as a megastructure, a radical multi-use building in which housing, shops, public services and entertainment are all contained under one roof. It was the cornerstone of Scotland’s third new town, where families from Glasgow relocated after World War Two. Its experimental design fascinated architects and critics, but its stark appearance divided opinion from the start. Now after decades of neglect, repurposing and partial demolition, there are plans to replace it with a new commercial and community hub. What is the right course when some wish to tear it down and others want it to be listed and reimagined for the future?

Lavender Labels

In addition, following a consultation with academics and community groups, V&A Dundee’s LGBTQ+ Working Group has added a set of new labels to the galleries known as the Lavender Labels, which explore queer histories and connections sparked by some of the objects.

The LGBTQ+ Working Group felt that the galleries could better reflect the stories and contributions of LGBTQ+ people to the story of Scottish Design. A workshop in April 2022 brought together academics and community groups from Scotland’s LGBTQ+ communities. After exploring the Scottish Design Galleries, they discussed which objects spoke to people and how they could be reinterpreted to explore LGBTQ+ stories. This workshop informed further research by the museum’s LGBTQ+ Working Group leading to the development of Queer Tours of the gallery, and the introduction of Lavender Labels. The labels have been co-written with participants from the workshop: Keava McMillan, Glyn Davis, Jeff Meek and OurStory Scotland.

Some of the objects with Lavender Labels include:

Set design Donald of the Burthens, Sadler’s Wells Ballet, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (c.1951 – 52)

Designed by Robert Colquhoun and Robert MacBryde, London, Coloured pastel with graphite on paper. On loan from V&A South Kensington.

Robert Colquhoun and Robert MacBryde were Scottish painters, printmakers and theatre set designers. Inseparable since their first meeting at Glasgow School of Art in 1933, they were known as ‘The Two Roberts’. Their enduring but complex romantic relationship fuelled their creative practice. They moved to London, where they could live fairly freely as part of the subversive Soho scene, designing costumes and sets for productions at the Royal Shakespeare Company and Sadler’s Wells. The design on display in the Scottish Design Galleries is one of over 250 sketches and layouts for Léonide Massine’s ballet, ‘Donald of the Burthens’. Colquhoun was the draughtsman and MacBryde the colourist.

Cream jug and sugar bowl (about 1920-40)

By Jessie M. King, Kirkcudbright, Lead-glazed earthenware painted in enamel colours. On loan from V&A South Kensington.

Jessie M. King was one of the group of women artists and designers later known as the ‘Glasgow Girls,’ designing illustrations and book covers in the Glasgow Style. King later settled in Kirkcudbright where she set up housing and studios for like-minded women artists at Greengate Close. It was here she made the jug and sugar bowl on display in the Scottish Design Galleries, which are factory-made blanks decorated with brightly coloured enamels. Greengate was a creative space where women could challenge societal norms. In 1918 suffragette and ambulance driver Vera Jack Holme stayed at Greengate with her partner, the artist Dorothy Johnstone. With artist Anne Finlay, they formed what they called a ‘fairy family,’ which LGBTQ+ people might recognise as a chosen or logical family.

The Face, issue 59 March 1985

Photographed by Jamie Morgan, styled by Ray Petri for Wagadon Ltd, London, Printed magazine.

The tough stare of the young model captured here for The Face magazine is an iconic image of the Buffalo style created by Dundee-born Ray Petri and his collaborators. One of Petri’s legacies is having created the role of the fashion stylist, now a central part of the industry. Drawing on street style, he combined flight jackets, tracksuits, brogues, kilts, Levi’s jeans and cowboy hats to create a tough but sexy male persona that was hugely influential in pushing against gender norms. He died of AIDS in 1989 aged only 41, having been one of the first well-known personalities in London to become sick with the disease.

Louise Dickson, V&A Dundee Programme Assistant and member of the LGBTQ+ Working Group, says.
“We imagined potential visitors not feeling reflected in what they read or saw and felt the story of Queer Scots' contribution to design was important to champion to visitors.
“In showing a range of people from different backgrounds, sexual and gender identities we are better reflecting society at large and the various ways individuals, designers and makers contribute to our understanding of the designed world around us.”

Entrance to the Scottish Design Galleries at V&A Dundee is free.

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