The two floors of the Barbican Art Gallery have gone “pop” with an exhibition of Pop Art and Design with many exhibits from the Vitra Design Museum in Germany, supplemented here by British artists such as Peter Blake. There are many of the classics that we all know and love from that era of design, style and great optimism about the future. It is a stunning exhibition, perhaps weak on architecture – the Guggenheim in New York is the iconic building of the exhibition, despite being set in another iconic complex – the Barbican itself. In one of the last rooms, the whole thing goes wrong, with food and debris becoming design and art. The exhibition’s reviews are generally positive but there is a consistent theme about it being a moment in time, which somehow then disappeared.
“If you look from one side of the show to the other, from pink to pistachio and back, 1970s pillars, in the Barbican’s elephantine concrete, intervene. They form a septum of time beyond which the 1960s can be glimpsed as a sunny lost world. The work on show – a stars-and-stripes sofa, Eero Aarnio‘s lime-green polyester armchair – makes everything else look grey, and the Barbican, already grey, still greyer. For all the current ubiquity of pop art imagery, it was also the creation of a moment, one not able to extend itself for long”
Oliver Jones in the Metro gave it a positive review, but ended:
“As pop art became a prevailing aesthetic trend, so this exhibition focuses increasingly on groovy plastic chairs, even Tupperware. It’s superbly staged – the darkened room showing Bond opening titles, complete with bed-sized beanbags, is a nice touch.
Yet, by its space-age climax, you feel as if you are wandering through a stylish yet soulless Stanley Kubrick film set.!
The exhibition starts by bringing joy and excitement, reminiscent of the atmosphere of the time; the end is slightly depressing – not the exhibition’s fault. What happened to that optimism, to the new style in art and design?? Some of those classic designs are still manufactured and in use today, as the main sponsors tp bennet confirmed. But what happened after that? Somehow you leave slightly depressed about what has – or has not – happened since then.