Exhibition dedicated to the work of Yinka Ilori opens at Design Museum


Brightly coloured chairs and personal memorabilia feature in the Parables for Happiness exhibition showcasing the works of London-based designer Yinka Ilori at the Design Museum.

Opened during London Design Festival, the exhibition is the first major display of Ilori’s vast number of vibrant designs, including graphic murals, furniture and public installations.

Model of one of Yinka Ilori's architectural designs
Parables of Happiness showcases a wide selection of Ilori’s designs

Ilori’s designs are exhibited alongside pieces that influenced his work and objects representing his Nigerian heritage, including Nigerian textiles adorned with colourful geometric patterns and a traditional Dùndún drum that visitors can play.

The show also includes models of some of the 80 sculptural chairs that Ilori has designed.

Yinka Ilori's colourful and graphic chair on display
Ilori started his career designing chairs

One of Ilori’s chair designs is presented in a line-up of iconic and recognisable chairs with the aim of giving context to his work. Included in the display is the RCP2 chair by Jane Atfield, who was Ilori’s tutor at university.

“One of the reasons I started designing was because of a brief given by Jane Atfield called Our Chair,” Ilori told Dezeen. “Purely because of her brief is why I started designing chairs when I finished uni.”

Washington Skeleton Side Chair designed by David Adjaye on display
A chair designed by David Adjaye is exhibited alongside Ilori’s work

Another chair on display is the Washington Skeleton Side Chair designed by British-Ghanian architect David Adjaye, who Ilori credits with having “opened doors for designers like me”.

“Over the years, my work has gained recognition for the strong use of colour, pattern and narrative that comes from my Nigerian heritage,” said Ilori. “However, it has often deviated from design trends and has been misunderstood”

“This display charts my inspirations and creative journey as I transitioned from furniture design to community-driven public installations,” he continued.

Nigerian textiles displayed at the Design Museum
His work is influenced by Nigerian textiles

Visitors to the exhibition can discover Ilori’s architectural projects through photographs, drawings and models including his Colour Palace pavilion, which was erected in Dulwich in 2019.

Details of Ilori’s Launderette of Dreams – an installation that involved reimagining a launderette in London as a children’s play zone for Lego – are displayed. A lego chair that formed part of the Launderette of Dreams installation is also on display at the show.

“A fast-rising star of contemporary design, Yinka Ilori’s unique aesthetic – drawing on Nigerian textiles with a nod to postmodernism – employs a mix of visual references that come together to inspire joy,” said the exhibition’s curator Priya Khanchandani.

“This display is a testament to how cultural fusions, frissons and juxtapositions can be rich fuel for creativity and for generating more inclusive architectures in the city.”

Details of the Parables of Happiness exhibition
Chairs and details of the designer’s public installations are included in the exhibition

As well as showcasing Ilori’s bright, playful designs and examples of his design influences, the exhibition features some of the designer’s personal items.

Visitors can see his name badge from working at Marks and Spencer and a pair of paint-splattered trousers that Ilori wore while painting a number of his graphic murals.

Details of the Parables of Happiness exhibition
Ilori is known for his use of colour and graphic representation

“I’m a huge believer in memory making and storytelling – how do we relive or revisit memories?” said Ilori.

In Parables of Happiness, Ilori hopes to “open up new conversations about design in the UK and internationally, to see how other people view design around the world”.

“I am truly humbled and honoured to have my work exhibited at such an early stage in my career and hope the display provides inspiration for the next generation who might feel they don’t fit into the status quo,” the designer continued.

Known for his colourful designs, Ilori has recently completed a pavilion in Berlin with a canopy made up of brightly coloured translucent disks and transformed his London studio and office with bold hues indicative of his signature art style.

The photography is by Felix Speller.

Parables for Happiness takes place from 15 September 2022 to 25 June 2023 at the Design Museum in London. See Dezeen Events Guide for an up-to-date list of architecture and design events taking place around the world.



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