Friday, 23 September 2011


I was lucky enough to attend the Press View of the V&A's new exhibition 'Postmodernism: Style & Subversion 1970-90'. Aside from some amazing mini-Danish pastries laid on, the exhibition itself was also pretty good too. When I say pretty good, I actually mean it was pretty much everything I love about being alive all condensed into one (large) space. So yeah, it was actually amazing.
I was going to post some pictures on here but the guy next to me got in some serious hot water for snapping in there, so I'll just provide other pictures of some of the things on display in the show....

...well, apart from this one, largely because it's not an actual display piece, also because it's slightly illegible and most importantly, it demonstrates wallpaper with the 'Bacterio' pattern designed by Italian supremo, Ettore Sottsass.

Sottsass was a highly respected Italian designer for Olivetti, who at a relatively late age, sensed the Punk spirit in the air and decided to rebel against the increasingly staid and dull modern design of the 70s (well, have you ever been in a Danish furniture purist's shop? yawn!). He formed a collective of New Wave designers dubbed 'Memphis' and, launching in Milan 1981, they set out the template for the 80s - irreverent retro-futuristic designs that referenced high and low art from 30s Deco to the 50s Atomic and beyond. It was completely impractical but who cares because it looked amazing (oh, and they didn't do brown).

Unsurprisingly I'm a huge fan of Memphis, and plan to feature more of their stuff in a forthcoming post. However, at this particular exhibition they have a whole room dedicated to Memphis that features the likes of LA designer (and my favourite of their crew) Peter Shire's 'Bel Air' armchair:

Also included is Michele De Lucchi's prototype models for Girmi homeware products. Why these never went into production is beyond me:

last but not least, Sotsass' own iconic 'Casablanca' sideboard makes an appearance:
there is even an amazing rare photo of a pre-Chanel Karl Lagerfeld in his 1981 Monte Carlo apartment, which he had decorated exclusively with Memphis (as you do).

Aside form bonkers 1980s furniture the exhibition also features fantastic architecture by the Vegas-inspired Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown and Charles Moore's highly controversial 'Piazza d'Italia' in New Orleans which managed to piss off every purist by essentially being a giant camp stage set combining the classical with lots of neon (and a fountain in the shape of Italy for good measure):
The Art featured tended to reveal the Dystopian clash of glamour and despair within Postmodernism. A favourite of mine is Rem Koolhaas'  'Delirious New York' from 1976:
Delirious New York Book 
Ron Arad's 'Concrete Stereo' 1983 also continues this apocalyptic vision:
there's so much more in the show from ceramics and jewellery to a final section on pop culture including original outfits from Annie Lennox, Klaus Nomi and they even have Rachel from Blade Runner's stunning dress suit!
I can't tell which I love more, the designs themselves or the fact that almost everything in the exhibition was (and often still is) reviled by authenticity obsessed purists. I think I'll have to go again to decide.

Postmodernism: Style & Subversion: 1970-90 opens at the V&A, September 24 and runs until 8 January 2012.

No comments:

Post a Comment