Home Magazine Essential items or Art? Supermarket or Museum?

The Design Museum in London opened its doors as a supermarket for a preview in April. Re-opening again from the 18th of May, it sells artworks as pasta, beans, washing up liquid… But the pop installation has a crucial message: #creativityisessential.

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A collaboration between the Design Museum, English Gin brand Bombay Sapphire and French artist and designer Camille Walala sees the shop of the Design Museum in central London become ‘SUPERMARKET’.

The installation has already attracted a great deal of public attention in April 2021. In fact, queues stretched into Kensington High Street in front of the museum. With the great success of the one week only, one should definitely keep an eye out for its re-opening on the 18th of May.



Zoë Rivas Zanello, Outside the installation SUPERMARKET at the Design Museum, 24 April 2021.


‘SUPERMARKET’ is born from an interesting collaboration – one which only the Design Museum could do. It is an installation which can most definitely be described as ‘a little pop and fun’ to use Camille Walala’s words to The Guardian. 

‘SUPERMARKET’ is an opportunity to see pieces by emerging international artists, but in an unusual way. In fact, the artworks are transformed into the packaging of essential items. Boxes of rice or pasta, passata, washing-up liquid, coffee and tinned beans... 


Zoë Rivas Zanello, Staff at installation SUPERMARKET at the Design Museum, 24 April 2021, Courtesy of the artist.


Ruff Mercy, Charlotte Edey, Holly Warburton, Isadora Lima, Kentaro Okawara, Amy Worrall, Joey Yu, Katherine Plumb, Michaela Yearwood-Dan and Jessica Warby – 10 artists from a variety of fields, from illustration to animation, graphic design or visual art are behind the artistic designs which cover the bags, boxes or tins. 

The emerging artists works literally adorn the essential items with their strong bold colours, attracting the attention of the consumer/visitor/participant of the already powerful installation design.


Zoë Rivas Zanello, Photo of Bread bag by Charlotte Edey at the Design Museum, 24 April 2021, Courtesy of the artist.


In SUPERMARKET, the artworks hang side by side on the walls above the products on the shelves. Like the artworks, the items on the shelves were designed, thought of, deliver a message. The difference is that these go for barely a couple of pounds. 

At the temporary opening people literally found themselves buying artworks for prices which are ridiculous compared to the staggering figures seen at auction or in galleries. It is just like a regular supermarket – but there is undoubtedly a message behind the installation.

It can be seen to question the barriers between art and design in a similar way to Andy Warhol’s ‘Brillo Boxes’, in 1964. It could refer to the status of Art – whether it is a public good or merely a hobby for the rich. But this project goes beyond these theoretical questions which are so central to the Art World… With #creativityisessential the message is clear. 


n.d., Rice box by Joey Yu, 2021, Courtesy of the Guardian, ©Design Museum.


As other projects by Walala, SUPERMARKET is a bold and clever way of making art both accessible and playful. According to the museum’s website, both online and in the SUPERMARKET shop installation, it is an opportunity to “Nourish your creativity and purchase limited edition works of art – all whilst doing your weekly shop”

With the installation the Design Museum supports the creativity of young artists. In fact, the profits will go towards the Design Museum’s new Emerging Designer Access Fund – giving emerging artists and designers free access to the museum’s exhibitions, talks and events.


Zoë Rivas Zanello, Inside the installation SUPERMARKET in the Design Museum, 24 April 2021.


Spot on in a time when in the UK, and in a great part of the world, museums have had to shut their doors. Artists are forgotten, along with many small creative businesses which were abruptly categorised as NOT ESSENTIAL. 

But the very thing the pandemic has told us is that artistic venues, cultural events and creativity are essential to human life and, for this reason, supporting emerging artists and young talents is crucial. Now more than ever before.

Engaging with Art is vital. We live on it, strive on it and breath Art everywhere. Even the design of a packet of pasta can make us think about the importance of accessing museums and supporting young artists. Museums are essential spaces. Artists are fundamental.


Cover image: n.d., The Design Museum’s essential store, 2021, Courtesy of The Guardian ©Design Museum.

Written by Zoë Rivas Zanello

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