Tom Dixon retrospective exhibition opens at Themes & Variations in London

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London gallery Themes & Variations has opened an exhibition of furniture, lighting and sculpture by designer Tom Dixon that spans his over 40-year career, which he says is “like having a visual psychotherapy session”.

The Tom Dixon: Metalhead exhibition features 52 pieces, including the designer’s 1986 welded metal chairs that were exhibited at Themes & Variations in 1987 in the early stages of his design career.

The exhibition showcases works from Dixon’s more than 40-year career. Photo by Dan Fontanelli

“Having a retrospective exhibition dating back to the 1980s feels kind of like having a visual psychotherapy session,” Dixon told Dezeen.

“Everything is out and aired, and nothing is hidden. One bonus is that it frees me to let go and move on.”

Chairs, sculptures and lighting by Dixon feature in the exhibition

Alongside the welded metal chairs in the exhibition are some of Dixon’s other notable archival designs, including the cantilevered 1987 Rafia chair, the sculptural wire frame Pylon chair from 1991 and the 2007 Extruded chair made from free-formed extruded plastic.

More recent works on display include the curved tubular Hydro chair and a series of mask-like sculptures and chairs evocative of Dixon’s early work, which were made during the 2021 coronavirus lockdown when Dixon was experimenting with welded salvage metal.

Tom Dixon: Metalhead is on display at London’s Themes & Variations gallery

To Dixon, each piece in the exhibition holds significance to him, whether for sentimental reasons, for signifying a change in material use or for what they represent in his career.

“Some works are more emotional, some have greater historical weight, some were born of more interesting production processes,” he said.


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Tom Dixon: Metalhead marks Themes & Variations’ final exhibition in its Notting Hill location. Since opening in 1984, the gallery has specialised in exhibiting post-war and contemporary design and aimed to spotlight up-and-coming designers, including Dixon.

“Dixon has lived many design lives,” Themes & Variations stated. “Beginning in 1983 as an untrained designer welding chairs from metal scavenged in scrap yards, his emergence as a singular talent in a select group of dynamic subversives saw him ascend to the helm of British design.”

Welded metal chairs made in 2021 reference Dixon’s designs from the 1980s

“Whether employing ancient handmaking traditions or high-tech processes, there is an essential attitude concurrent across Dixon’s extensive catalogue – one that, despite his indelible contribution to industrial design, has retained the renegade spirit of his early metal works,” the gallery added.

“The works presented contemplate Dixon through the lens of the designer as a restless and industrious maker in perpetual exploration of the potential of materials and techniques.”

The exhibition runs until 13 January 2024

Dixon worked as creative director of furniture companies Habitat and later Artek before founding his eponymous brand Tom Dixon in 2002.

Last year, the brand celebrated its 20th anniversary with an exhibition of its designs at Milan design week and in 2021, amid coronavirus restrictions, Dixon launched a range of accessories at Stockholm Design Week via a hologram of himself.

The photography is courtesy of Themes & Variations unless stated.

Tom Dixon: Metalhead is on display at Themes & Variations in London, UK, from 22 November 2023 to 13 January 2024. See Dezeen Events Guide for an up-to-date list of architecture and design events taking place around the world.

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