V&A: British Design 1948–2012

Between working, being heavily pregnant and looking after the family, I’m not left with very much time to do the things I want to do. Going to exhibitions on my own, for example. But when I heard about V&A’s new Spring exhibition, I knew I simply had to find the time to see it. Thank goodness I had to see it for work anyway. So last Friday, that was where I was.

British Design 1948–2012: Innovation in the Modern Age is a celebration of the best of British post-war art and design from the 1948 ‘Austerity Games’ to the summer of 2012. There are three parts to the exhibition: Tradition & Modernity, Subversion and Innovation & Creativity. “The exhibition reveals how British designers have responded to economic, political and cultural forces that have fundamentally shaped how we live today,” and it was done through exploring buildings, objects, images and ideas produced by designers and artists born, trained or based in Britain.

The first part formed the more sedate part of the exhibition, with the Festival of Britain, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, road signs by Margaret Calvert, Laura Ashley and the countryside. Moving from the restrained designs of the first room to the punk energy second room was like being zapped by a lightning bolt. This was the Subversion section with Mary Quant, Ossie Clark, punk, Jamie Reid, photographers like David Bailey, Terence Donovan and Brian Duffy, Vivienne Westwood, Factory Records, Peter Saville, i-D and The Face magazines, and Derek Jarman. In that one room were all the characters that inspired and influenced in my teenage years. Finally, the third room, Innovation & Creativity, was all skyscrapers, new technology, gaming technology and futuristic, featuring Norman Foster’s Gherkin and Zaha Hadid’s London Olympic Aquatics Centre.

I spent about two hours there, although it could have been longer if I didn’t have to pick my son up from school. The exhibition made me feel hopeful that we will make it out of this financially tricky times and come out stronger. I am sure of it.

Out of everything in the exhibition, the one exhibit that drew the biggest crowd was a compilation of music videos. As soon as the beats of Pet Shop Boys’s It’s A Sin (directed by Derek Jarman) came on, everyone would swarm towards it. As did I.

Do you have a favourite British design?

One Comment

  1. Great post 🙂 So glad that this will still be on when we get to the UK. The country needs to inspire some hope at the moment. I’m looking forward to the Olympics for the same reason.

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