Thursday, 18 December 2008

Cold War Modern

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Today I went to the Victoria and Albert museum in South Kensington to see the ‘Cold War Modern’ exhibition.

The V&A is absolutely my favourite museum ever, and one of my most loved places to go in London. It’s free to get in, and the underpass from the tube station takes you directly up into one of the galleries. There’s an amazing permanent collection including fantastic sculpture, silverware, jewellery and clothes, as well as art and books and they have some really well put together exhibition with prices around £5 for a student ticket.

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my mother in the cafe!

Even the café is amazing, a mish-mash of over the top Victorian décor, Art Neuveau and modern, with really great if slightly pricy food. I think the sign of a really great meal is if you can make healthy food look just as appetising and delicious as the unhealthy alternative (this may not be the case if unlike me you don’t know the Dominoes phone number by heart!) and they certainly manage this.

The exhibition I saw has been much less publicised than the ‘Golden Age of Couture’ exhibition I saw about the same time last year, which is a pity because it was just as interesting, if not more so because I knew so little about the cold war period from 1945-1970. It featured mainly architects’ models, drawings, posters and furniture as well as some clothes from designers like Le Corbusier, Eames and Paco Rabanne.


One of the things I found most interesting was the fact that it featured so much from both sides of the Iron Curtain, not just the iconic design of the 50s, 60s and 70s in America and Western Europe, but the huge influence Communism had on design in China and the former USSR.

For something which is only a generation or so ago there is so much about that time which has been forgotten, and the influence it has had on modern design is so clear when you look at the collection of items they have on display, which is quite ironic considering how 50s architecture is disparaged! It was also quite poignant how the political and economic climate of the world influenced design, and how similar some of the events seem to the present day and how far others do. The £15 billion spending plan by the US to stimulate the European economy after world war two, Nixon’s presidential win on the back of a swift troop withdrawal from Vietnam (which actually lead to a worsening of the fighting there) definitely struck a chord with today, while photos of the Afghanistan Trade Fair seem so alien to the pictures you see today.

I think anyone with an interest in design and politics would love the exhibition, although we met a party of school kids from Manchester who said they’d been in London for two days already and shad een every museum on London and that Le Corbusier’s ‘Poem Electronique’ was sending them to sleep, so it’s possibly not for everyone!

Cold War Modern is on at the Victoria and Albert Museum until 11th January. All pictures via their website or taken by me!


Geek Out…

http://www.vam.ac.uk/
- V & A museum website for tickets and info
http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/modernism - a collection of guardian articles on modernism in art and design (including one rubbishing a previous V&A exhibition on modernism but there we go!)

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