If someone had to make a ranking of the most colourful movements in art history, pop art would without a doubt be in first place.
The exhibition Pop Art Design at the Barbican Centre does nothing to challenge this assertion. Bringing together pieces by more than 70 artists and designers, including iconic works by the likes of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, it showcases everything the movement produced: from collages and paintings to photography, from furniture to magazine and album covers, colour is the main recurring theme.
Unlike any other exhibition before, it focuses mainly on the intense dialogue between the fields of art and design that characterised the Pop Art movement from the late 1950s to the early 1970s: design is seen as a crucial aspect in the movement’s development and some of the main characteristics of Pop Art are widely featured.
…there is no object too insignificant to be used to create a piece of art…
The artists’ signature conviction that ordinary, everyday objects can serve as artistic subject matter can be seen by how interior design pieces were created: from a bicycle saddle used to build a designer chair (Sella by the Castiglioni brothers) to a war helmet that becomes a bedside lamp (George Nelson’s Sergeant Schultz), there is no object too insignificant to be used to create a piece of art.
Similarly, as consumer culture spread and, through advertising, brand name products of the 1950s became as famous and coveted as film stars, they became crucial for Pop artists: Andy Warhol’s signature pieces were canvases with images of iconic American labels such as Coca-Cola, and Studio Simon’s Tribute to Andy Warhol, a stool made in the form of a Campbell’s Soup can, perfectly capture the spirit of the exhibition.
Although called Pop Art Design, it is a must-see for lovers of every field: exaggerating everything from political figures and popular celebrities to comic book superheroes and domestic appliances, the Pop Art movement produced some of the best pieces in post-war art and this exhibition undoubtedly proves it.