When the Memphis design group turned up at the 1981 Milan Furniture Fair with their plastic laminated, brightly colored and highly patterned furniture, the exhibition was reportedly mobbed and streets were blocked as people tried to cram into the tiny exhibition space.
In an effort to explore how this and other examples of postmodernism across the artistic spectrum — architecture, fashion, dance, pop music — have shaped 20th-century design and style, London’s Victoria & Albert Museum (Cromwell Road; 44-20-7942-2000; www.vam.ac.uk) will host “Postmodernism: Style and Subversion, 1970-1990,” running from Sept. 24 to Jan. 15.
“Memphis’s entry into the world befitted that of a rock star, rather than a furniture brand,” said Jane Pavitt, a curator of the exhibit. “Thirty years is about right to start looking back with fresh eyes at a subject which has been variously derided, dismissed and treated as highly toxic.”
As MTV also turns 30 this year, the show will include elements of video and music, including performances from David Byrne, Grace Jones, Devo, Laurie Anderson, Neneh Cherry, New Order, Kraftwerk and Grandmaster Flash — artists who employed the key postmodern strategy of sampling and editing together different style tropes, Ms. Pavitt said.
Also included in the show are works by artists like Jeff Koons and Andy Warhol, and architects like Philip Johnson. But the show goes beyond art, including pieces from luxury brands like Alessi, the fashion designers Vivienne Westwood and Stephen Sprouse, album and magazine covers, and films like Ridley Scott’s science-fiction classic “Bladerunner.”
Postmodernism, according to Ms. Pavitt, includes “a set of incendiary tactics which overturned the principles and dogmas of the modern movement, and advocated instead a politics of and about style itself, ransacking the dressing up box of stylistic idioms to produce an eclectic, exuberant and often confrontational practice.”
This exhibition is the culmination of a series of exhibitions at the V&A exploring 20th century design and style. In 2006, the museum staged an exhibition on Modernism. Their 2008 show “Cold War Modern” examined the post-war impact of modernism on both sides of the iron curtain.
The full story is at the NEW YORK TIMES.
Photo: V&A Images