Philippe Decelle really loves plastics. This is no idle love. The Belgian artist and collector has spent 30 years collecting thousands of plastic items for posterity, from furniture to fashion to art to common utensils. He understands plastics — their history, their chemistry, their aesthetics, their pop culture references.
As public awareness of plastic pollution rises, filtering down through photos of trashy beaches and choked fish, everyone from celebrities to government officials to the Queen of England have disparaged the material. The EU plans to ban or reduce consumption of disposable plastic drastically in the coming years. Plastic straws are society’s new enemy.
But in a mirrored museum tucked behind the Atomium on the outskirts of Brussels, there’s a quiet haven where Decelle’s collection, dubbed the Plasticarium, has lived since 2014. Here, plastic is still in fashion.
The beginning of Decelle’s exhibit extolls “that cheerful, unpretentious creative marvel” of the post-war ’60s and ’70s, the real heyday of plastics. Suddenly, fluorescent colors and shiny appliances and girls in short dresses and bright go-go boots were ubiquitous. Everyone wanted plastic furniture — and thanks to cheap material and mass production, everyone could afford it. For the first time, design was democratized.