British Design 1948 – 2012

The British Design 1948-2012 exhibition at the V&A.

The British Design 1948-2012 exhibition at the V&A.

2012 is a big year for London and the British Design (1948-2012) exhibition – currently open at the V&A – celebrates the capital’s and country’s post-war contribution to everything from film and music to design and technology. Spanning over three separate rooms, the exhibition offers a unique, considered aesthetic, and visitors are strongly advised to take their time.

The first room examines everyday design: traffic lights, road signs, cutlery and interiors. It is a great exploration of the decades following the Second World War, and a testament to the way a nation rebuilt itself with innovation and industry. Then, as VELOUR meander into the next room, there is a flicker of hesitation as we are convinced a wrong turn has been taken. Surely, this is a separate exhibition? Music blares from a cinema screen and the entire gallery is alive with stimuli.

Work by David Hockney, Zandra Rhodes and Edwardo Paolozzi greets visitors in a variety of forms and the pop art sculpture by Paolozzi is particularly arresting. It brings to mind images of a Dalek, styled and coloured in a way that is reminiscent of the Prada SS12 lipstick heels.

Almost as fascinating as the exhibits are the personal anecdotes that trickle from fellow visitors

When testifying great British design, it would be inconceivable to ignore the Sixties. Case in point: Mary Quant’s mini dress and the Mini car. Both stand side-by-side as a great representation of the vibrancy and innovation of the decade. Beyond this, there is a large cinema screen showing a short clip of the film Blow-up (1966) by Michelangelo Antonioni and original copies of Nova and Queen magazine: further indications of the era’s penchant for experimentation.

Next comes a celebration of great British music; including various costumes created by Kansai Yamamoto for Ziggy Stardust and a collection of iconic portraits from rock history. Work by O’Neill, Duffy and Mankowitz as well as The Rolling Stone’s infamous tongue logo designed by John Pasche in 1970 sit proudly alongside a selection of Beatles record sleeves. Section two closes with apposite recognition of British fashion and tailoring as well as, Damien Hirst’s ‘Pharmacy’ installation.

The third and final section is presented in a minimal style: tall white walls reflect the contemporary, simplistic design featured here and it’s peaceful in contrast to next door. A Jaguar E-type Series 1 car is parked in the doorway, ensuring all visitors admire its graphite beauty. To the right stands a 10m long Concorde display; depicting the marvel of aviation as it would have been prior to its inaugural flight in 1969.

Here, the emphasis is on modern design development. Wall projections document the construction of Gherkin and recently completed Olympic stadium; a fitting finale to this detailed and compelling collection. Almost as fascinating as the exhibits are the personal anecdotes that trickle from fellow visitors. Such is the joy of visiting an exhibition that spans and details so many years.

The exhibition runs until 12th August 2012.

by @Rebeccaemilys

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