Visnja Brdar: Design Exalted – Exhibition by Australian Design Visionary

Monash University Museum of Art | MUMA has announced the debut exhibition of Australian-born, New York–based designer Visnja Brdar. Visnja Brdar: Design Exalted will be Australia’s first significant exhibition of a female graphic designer and will profile the remarkable thirty-seven-year career of a design visionary in an exhibition exclusive to MUMA which opens from 11 April to 15 June 2024.

Drawing on Brdar’s design archive and celebrating the designer’s important role in  contemporary design communication, the exhibition coincides with the first monograph on Brdar’s work co published by MUMA and Powerhouse Publishing.

Rebecca Coates, Director of MUMA, comments, “Visnja Brdar’s story is a testament to the power of design in  shaping narratives and transcending boundaries. Having worked with some of the world’s leading brands, her  design practice is singular, exemplified by its independence, elegance, simplicity and dynamism. We are delighted  to present this important exhibition and provide an opportunity for audiences to gain an insight into the evolution of  this internationally recognised force in design.”

Curated by Hannah Mathews, formerly Senior Curator MUMA, and now Director/CEO Perth Institute of  Contemporary Arts, MUMA’s exhibition will showcase Brdar’s groundbreaking graphic and creative direction work  across the fields of architecture, art, real estate, fashion and lifestyle; from her influential real estate campaigns in  post–financial crisis New York to her iconic designs for Estée Lauder, Bill Blass, Armani, Issey Miyake and  Jil Sander.

The exhibition will also explore the meticulous artistry and sophistication within Brdar’s brand identity, collateral,  book design, packaging, jewellery, and creative direction projects, underlying her commitment to design as a  form of storytelling. In addition, new works of art and personal notebooks will be made public for the first time,  attesting to her remarkable and broad range of expression.

“I strive to push the boundaries of design, the boundaries of possibility, in pursuit of the new, the surprising and the  poetic, the profound and extremely beautiful. In a society that glorifies the disposable and inessential, I aim for my  work to have substance and aesthetic power that stand the test of time,” says Brdar.

Brdar’s narrative is one of resilience and determination. The daughter of Croatian refugees, her journey reflects a  blend of grit, self-possession and creative commitment. Hailing from Geelong in Australia, she conquered the  New York design scene, breaking barriers in a 1990s, largely male-dominated, Anglo-Saxon design industry.

Brdar embarked on her design journey at Swinburne University of Technology in 1988, where her early work showcased a mature and prescient understanding of design. Graduating in 1991, she was awarded ‘student of  the year’ and, having rejected multiple job offers, launched her own creative studio in Melbourne at the age of  twnety-two. In the initial stages of her career, Brdar engaged in notable collaborations with design luminaries such  as Marc Newson, Jenny Bannister, Chris Connell and Tibor Kalman, as well as The Sydney Opera House,  setting an influential tone for her trajectory in the field.

Her natural inclination to align herself with the pinnacle of excellence drew her to New York, arguably the epicentre  of culture, creativity and commerce, and the undisputed hub for branding and graphic design. Taking on the role  of Art Director with Fabien Baron, she worked with prestigious brands including Michael Kors, Jil Sander,  Giorgio Armani and Nars Cosmetics.

In 2003, she re-established her eponymous creative agency, BRDAR. Over the past two decades, operating  from her New York base, Brdar has collaborated with discerning clientele across diverse domains, including  architecture, art, real estate, fashion and lifestyle, ranging from Estée Lauder, Bally, Paul Andrew to Zeckendorf,  Norman Foster and world-renowned photographer Richard Avedon on the advertising campaign for Bill  Blass. Her steadfast commitment to innovation, essentialism and modernity has firmly established her as a  formidable and influential presence in the global design arena.

Hannah Mathews, Guest Curator, reflects on Brdar’s work, “When I first heard Visnja speak I was struck by how  much of her language shares qualities with some of our finest artists. She’s committed to testing the boundaries of  technologies, materials and visual culture. She needs to be moved and in turn wants to move others. There is a  clarity and vision to her work that sets her apart.”

Visnja Brdar shares, “As I look back at most of my work, I wouldn’t change a thing.” Her clarity of vision is evident  in a career spanning over thirty-seven years. The exhibition will offer a comprehensive retrospective, ranging from  impressive works done as a seventeen-year-old to the most recent artworks, encapsulating Brdar’s enduring  values and contributions to the world of graphic design.

Visnja Brdar: Design Exalted, which has been supported by Monash Art Design and Architecture, promises to be a  must-see event, celebrating the evolving legacy of an important Australian female designer on the global design  landscape. The exhibition will form part of 2024 Melbourne Design Week and feature in the annual program of  leading Australian design.

The exhibition will be accompanied by the designer’s first book, co-published by Monash University Museum of Art  and Powerhouse Publishing. Designed by Brdar herself, the publication positions Brdar’s work within its Australian,  international, design and broader cultural contexts, and features newly commissioned writing from design  historians and writers Emily King, Sarah Medford and Denise Whitehouse.


Visnja Brdar: Design Exalted  | 11 April – 15 June 2024

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