Inside the Collection

Droog: Dutch for dry

Droog chest of drawers
Collection: Powerhouse Museum

Droog = WYSIWYG (“What you see is what you get”)
Droog = IYF (“In your face”)
Droog = Dutch for dry

In this day and age of acronyms, colloquialisms, abbreviations and computer speak; things aren’t always what they seem. As for Droog, however, its design speak is presented on a plate, with a few witty undertones and superfluous comic references to boot.

Droog is a Dutch conceptual design company (referred to this way for its “no nonsense, down to earth design mentality”), which was co-founded by Renny Ramakers and Gijs Bakkers in 1993. Droog is literally the Dutch word for “dry”. They emerged out of the Memphis group, an Italian design and architecture movement led by Ettore Sottsass in the 1980s (which was characterised by unconventional shapes, colours and creations), but unlike their earlier counterparts, differentiated themselves with their ‘droog’ humour. The name ‘Memphis’ was inspired by Bob Dylan’s song Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again!

Droog is known for supporting emerging Dutch designers (and now harnessing the talents of more established ones), such as Tejo Remy (born 1960), who designed ‘You can’t lay down your memory’ chest of drawers, one of Droog’s best known design products, in 1991. It was showcased for Droog at the 1993 Milan Furniture Fair, along with the works of Hella Jongerius and Marcel Wanders, and this is where Droog really made their mark on the international furniture and design scene. The chest consists of 20 individual recycled drawers bound together by a luggage strap. Each chest designed by Remy and made by Droog is different – each individual drawer is a different size, style or colour and can be placed in a different position every time it is assembled.

Droog chest of drawers, detail
Collection: Powerhouse Museum

The chest of drawers gives a new meaning and purpose to recycling in design and was indeed one of the first design pieces to do this. Each drawer represents a pre-loved object, which conjures up its own imagery associated with a particular room of a house in which that drawer might have belonged; who owned it; what was kept inside and why they decided to get rid of it? Certain memories, associations and imaginings are inextricably attached and demonstrate the power that even inanimate objects have in transcending emotions and thought. It points the finger at consumption and over-production and quite fittingly, is not something which can easily be mass produced itself! There is, in fact, quite a lot in common with Remy’s work and the concept of Dadaism.

Droog chest of drawers back view
Collection: Powerhouse Museum

As stamped on the back, this is the 81st chest of drawers designed by Remy for Droog and the latest chest made at the time the Museum acquired it in 2007 (which averages to about 4 or 5 being made every year!). If you look at some of the examples in other Museums’ permanent collections, like MOMA, High Museum of Art Atlanta and the Brooklyn Museum, you can see just how unique each chest is. Perhaps, of even more interest, is the chest’s installation which was recorded by the High Museum of Art Atlanta in 2008. Installation of Remy’s chest of drawers (1 of 3)

‘You can’t lay down your chest of memories’ is currently on display in the Museum’s Inspired! exhibition.

3 responses to “Droog: Dutch for dry

  • Thanks. This is one of my favourite items you have on display.

    Due to the fact that the drawers can be reassembled in any order, to what degree do you ascribed authorship to the person who assembles the drawers, and the order and pattern in which they are assembled.

    Tejo Remy has said they may be assembled in any order, and the owners may add to them. So, how much design and art is in the assembly?

    • Hi Bob
      I don’t think authorship really comes into it. It’s a rather conceptual design piece which means there is no order or pattern to its assemblage. Our particular display, as it is now, is the first time we had assembled and installed it and at the time it was overseen by our former furniture curator. It’s possible it was reassembled the way it was when we first saw it, but I can’t be certain. I guess you could say the design of this object is constantly evolving – every time it is taken off display, put into storage or displayed elsewhere something can change. So, that’s why I made the comparison to Dadaism and I guess in a way we can also compare the object to performance art and other installations – it’s the idea behind the piece and the freedom to change it which makes it so interesting.

  • That’s a great question Bob! Unfortunately, the installation of Remy’s drawers in our Inspired! exhibition was before my time at the Museum. I will get back to you soon about the nature of how our one was assembled.

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