‘Creativity is essential’: artist-designed supermarket to open in London

Mark Brown Arts correspondent
·3 min read

It will sell “essential” products including toilet roll, teabags, washing-up liquid, passata and gin but, given this could be the world’s first artist-designed supermarket, not as we know them.

The Design Museum in London will this week reopen its shop as a supermarket, selling a range of products with packaging designed by emerging artists. The aim is to convey the message that creativity is as essential as the stuff we buy in the weekly shop.

Open for just five days, the redesigned shop will sell the products at similar prices to a supermarket, with proceeds helping an organisation which has seen a 92% drop in income because of the pandemic.

England’s museums and galleries can’t reopen until after 17 May but shops can open.

Camille Walala is lead artist on the project and has designed the vibrantly coloured, boldly-patterned temporary shop.

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She said she was thinking of supermarkets from the 1980s when she made her design. “I wanted to do something a little bit pop and fun … I want to put a smile on people’s faces. I hope it will be joyful.”

The point being made was the importance of creativity, said Walala. “We are all creative but we might not realise it. We might go for a walk and pick up some nice flowers, we cook every day.”

Walala said it has been a joy to work on. “The past year has been really challenging for artists who haven’t been able to show work or collaborate as normal.

“The supermarket is a great way to not only support the Design Museum, but also shine a spotlight on the 10 brilliant young artists who, through this project, have a new platform for their work.”

The products include a kidney beans tin designed by Kentara Okwara (70 pence), a porridge oat jar by Amy Warrall (£1.10), toilet roll by Michaela Yearwood-Dan (50 pence), a rice box by Joey Yu (£2), and washing-up liquid by Jess Warby (£2).

The project is a collaboration between the Design Museum and Bombay Sapphire – its gin bottle has been designed by Ruff Mercy and is £28. Mercy has also designed the tonic (80 pence).

Products will be for sale at the shop and online, with the museum expecting heavy demand. Proceeds will go to the museum’s new emerging designer access fund which gives up and coming artists and designers free access to the museum’s exhibitions, events and talks.

Tim Marlow, director of the Design Museum, said: “Our high streets, museums and galleries have been hit hard by the pandemic … this is an opportunity to get people back to enjoying our cultural institutions safely and creatively.

“This installation is an opportunity to think about what we buy, who profits and what we consider to be essential. We can’t wait to welcome visitors back to our museum.”

The project has the backing of Lord Mendoza, the UK government’s commissioner for cultural recovery and renewal.

He said: “I understand the hard year our cultural sector has been through. Any opportunity to celebrate and champion this fantastic talent is hugely welcome. I would like to thank Bombay Sapphire for their support in this project, and encourage other brands to get behind the recovery of the UK cultural sector.”

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