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The SUPERMARKET Pop-up Shop at Design Museum London is back from 17 May

Updated: Jul 16, 2021

Under the alluring motto “nourish your creativity and purchase limited edition works of art during your weekly shop", the pop-up shop at Design Museum London challenges the meaning of “essential” during a global pandemic.

The adjective “essential” has its roots in the Middle English “essencial,” Late Latin’s “essentialis”, and the Latin “essential”, meaning "the basic nature of a thing, its essence" and adding the Latin suffix “-alis” stands for "relating to."

There's even a joyful trolley stand right at the entrance
To boost the Reality factor, there's even a joyful trolley stand right at the entrance

Although there’s an international consensus on what’s critical for a functional society, some countries have developed a unique approach to the life-sustaining services that are allowed to stay open.

Washing up liquid with applied artwork by Jessica Warby, artist and illustrator.
Washing up liquid with applied artwork by Jessica Warby, artist and illustrator.

Sometimes, the essential spectrum was widened to include florists (Delaware), golf courses (Arizona), and even gray business areas like liquor stores (granted essential status in all US states except Pennsylvania), Cannabis dispensaries, gun stores, hardware stores, and office supplies stores.

In Europe, Germany kept car dealerships open during the second lockdown while in Belgium, chocolate shops supplied moments of much-needed sugary happiness. Bookshops and museums were also deemed essential.

The Installation's Vital Statement: Creativity is Essential


In the UK, as art spaces have remained closed, the Design Museum has teamed up with Bombay Sapphire gin and designer Camille Walala to reopen the museum’s high street shop located in the heart of Kensington, disguised as a grocery shop, with the vital message that creativity is essential for any human being and should be encouraged, particularly during difficult times.

Buy Art at Grocery Store Prices


To make art accessible to everyone without breaking the official British lockdown rules, organizers have stocked shelves with everyday items like tins of kidney beans, tea, coffee, bread, pasta sauce, porridge oats, rice, toilet paper, and washing up liquid, ALL packaged in artworks created by a line-up of 10 emerging artists, illustrators, and animators who were given the liberty to fully express their unique imagery and styles.

Toilet roll by Michaela Yearwood-Dan Michaela Yearwood-Dan is a painter whose vibrant artwork explores ideas around class, race, gender, culture and nature. Her practice is inspired by stories of self, conversations around politics, personal, love, loss and self-reflection, whilst remaining playful and light-hearted.
Toilet roll by Michaela Yearwood-Dan, a painter who explores ideas of gender, class, race, culture and nature.

The London-based, French-born, designer and artist Camille Walala was commissioned by the Design Museum to oversee the project and transform the interior of the shop. Walala completely transformed the space with her intense patterning and typically crisp graphic mix of blocks of brilliant colour into what was described by Design Museum director Tim Marlow as a "fully immersive polychromatic installation."

Pandemic tell-tale signs: socially-distanced queuing (particularly outside essential shops)
Pandemic tell-tale signs: socially-distanced queuing (particularly outside essential shops)

All proceeds are forwarded to the Design Museum’s new pay-it-forward scheme called “Emerging Designer Access Fund” which grants newbie designers and emerging artists free access to the Design Museum's spaces, exhibitions, events, and talks.

“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" (Camille Walala, The Guardian)

🎨 “Our high streets, museums, galleries, and art spaces have been hit hard by the pandemic … this is an opportunity to get people back to enjoying our cultural institutions safely and creatively.” (Tim Marlow, The Guardian)

Behind the counter, the less ‘essential’ bottles of gin and tonic designed by Ruff Mercy
Behind the counter, the less "essential" Bombay Sapphire bottles of gin and tonic designed by artist Ruff Mercy.
Passata jar by talented illustrator and animator Joey Yu
Passata jar label by talented illustrator and animator Joey Yu

“I loved the informal packaging and everyday prosaic setting of a supermarket as a chance to showcase something more intimate and emotional. I think it’s kind of funny to have a touching scene on a bottle/BOX we would maybe typically handle without much thought,” said Yu for the Museums Association.

Bread bag by interdisciplinary artist and illustrator Charlotte Edey
Bread bag by interdisciplinary artist Charlotte Edey who explores identity and spirituality through Symbolism and myth.

SUPERMARKET will re-open at the Design Museum in London from May 18th.


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