exhibition archive

When Marcel Met Motley

16.09.06 - 21.10.06

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Exploring the relationship between the migr Hungarian architect Marcel Breuer and the three female theatre designers, the Motley Theatre Design Group, and the fruits of their collaboration: The Motley Fashion Shop in Garrick Street, and the London Theatre Studio in Islington.

curated by Sophie Jump with Jane Won

In 1936 a new kind of theatre school opened in Islington. The London Theatre Studio was the first British drama school to incorporate theatre design and also included the training of directors, stage-managers and lighting designers. The building was adapted for the school by the young Hungarian architect from the Bauhaus, Marcel Breuer. The designers in charge of the theatre design course were three women who practiced under the name of Motley.

The meeting between these important theatre designers and the architect led to a collaboration which went beyond the London Theatre Studio project. When the Motleys ventured into the field of contemporary fashion and decided to open a shop called Motley Couture, they asked Breuer to design the interior of their shop for them.

Both Breuer and Motley continue to have a huge influence on their respective arts. We are still fascinated and delighted by Breuer's architecture, and his furniture designs are still available for sale seventy years on. Motley influenced theatre design so fundamentally through both their work and their teaching that it is inconceivable to imagine Britain having such a worldwide reputation for design without them.

Celebrating the seventieth anniversary of their collaboration, this exhibition will seek to illuminate the point in time when the paths of designers of such different backgrounds crossed, and to explore how it came to be that they had so much in common. What was it about both them and their age that created such a lasting legacy?

Bringing together documents and images, some from family archives and unseen by the public before, the exhibition will give new insight into the Modernist zeitgeist of mid 1930's design.

Sophie Jump 2006


This exhibition has been made possible through the generous support of Paul Davis + Partners, architects and urban designers, and RIBA Trust.


Contemporary editions of Breuer and Aalto furniture have been kindly loaned by Isokon Plus and twentytwentyone respectively and all furniture exhibited is available for sale.



Supported by :

paul davis & partners logo
  RIBA Trust logo
  twentytwentyone logo



installation view

Installation view

installation view

Installation view

London Theatre model

London Theatre Studio model

London Theatre Studio

London Theatre Studio
with stackable 611 chairs by Alvar Aalto
Image Courtesy of the Marcel Breuer Papers, Archives of American Art,
Smithsonian Institution

Motley Tiger costume

Motley Tiger costume for Merula Salaman
© Guinness family