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Pop Art Design

An essay by Jordan Bowen

Graphic Design

01 December 2013
Proof read by Lieke Drge

To call The Barbicans recent exhibition an innocent showcasing of Pop Art Design would be an
utter bastardisation of the three words, though if we label it with the more fitting title of The Art of
Vintage Tits and Arse it would probably have an 18+ warning on the front door with that in mind,
it has been said that
The sexual impulse is the root of all that is noble and uplift-ing in the world to-day, and more
especially is it the secret of success in Art. (Heaton 6)
So it is not surprising Mathias Schwartz-Clauss; the curator of this bizarre assemblage, felt the need
to exhibit such- an insistent and carnal narration buried within the depths of these art pieces.
Sponsored by leading architectural practice tp bennet, though a company constantly looking for
new artistic channels to generate fresh ideas and debate their webpage utilises only a tiny recycled
explanation of the exhibit; however, their dedication and enthusiasm to the event is paramount in
comparison when taking into account their London office which will don a Pop Art Design themed
reception area until the exhibition is finished. (tpbennet) The Barbican was pitted out with over 200
pieces shipped over from the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, over 70 artists helped create the
collection, though thanks to the noticeably phenomenal organisational skills of both the above-
mentioned and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebk (whom were in cooperation with
the listing) the pieces appeared to marry in a way you would realistically assume they were
produced by only a select minority of designers. According to tp bennet;
Pop Art Design is the first comprehensive exhibition to explore the exciting exchange of
ideas between artists and designers in the Pop age. The exhibition paints a new picture of
Pop - one that recognises the central role played by design.
It is safe to say that this supporter of Pop Art Design wholly realises Schwartz-Clauss vision, to
create and art piece in itself, to convey a narrative within the display rather than showcasing work
purely because of the aesthetic expectation it may or may not live up to though is this really the
way we would have Pop Art; a pinnacle point of British History offered to us? In 1961, William C
Seitz fashioned a show at the Museum of Modern Art titled The Art of Assemblage, this
presentation explored the urban environment as a collage of new antiques, or simply put
antiques of the future; however, if exhibitions such as Pop Art Design reinvent or paint a new
picture of mid-twentieth century art, are they simply smothering the origins of the traditional Pop
Art exhibition of the 1960s? (Compton 86)
[Concerning Pop Art] The term first appeared in Britain during the 1950s and referred to the
interest of a number of artists in the images of mass media, advertising, comics and
consumer products. (West)
Interest, interest is the significant word here as Pop Art icon Marilyn Monroe once said Sex is
part of nature. I go along with nature. something humans are most definitely interested in no
wonder the first assortment to grace our eyeballs as we arrive at the showing is a body of shrewd
erotic themes concealed within pieces of work accompanied by oddly articulated text panels. First
piece, Saul Steinberg, Eames chair, 1952 simply put, a curvaceous chair with an equally curvaceous
no named woman shoddily drawn into the workmanship - a shoddily drawn, no named, naked
woman. Ignoring the obvious themes of the piece the description given to us by The Barbican merely
gives us a less interesting body of text unfolding information such as fiberglass, steel wire, rubber
and paint or the equally as thought-provoking fact; pointing out that the user of the chair would
happen to be sitting on her lap. (Eames Chair Text Panel) This piece, though at first glance may
seem merely an attempt to bring childlike art into the 50s, it has done so through the use of Charles
and Ray Eames popular chair design, bringing our thoughts back to the roots of what Pop Art really
is an art form exploring the relationship between popular culture and the everyday person, a
affiliation that wouldnt exist without the use of advertising still, sex sells, and Pop Art Design and
its supporters know this.
One piece you could not merely walk past without looking is Archille and Pier Giacomo Castiglionis
Sella; or simply, a stool with a bicycle seat on top. (Fig. 1) This remarkable slice of pop art was
erected back in 1957 where it was exhibited at the Shapes and Colours in Nowadays Home, it was
said to be displayed in one Italian living room with a ceiling suspended tv-set, abstract wall
decorations and metal washbasins '800 style. a serving suggestion to the 1950s homeowner if you
will. (unicahome) One would think this design was chosen by Schwartz-Clauss because its quirky
or different, but the fleshy pink shaft - that of course couldnt be described on the text panel any
other way than as the colour of the jersey worn by the male leader of the Giro DItalia race, springs a
weightier meaning to the whole exhibition, particularly when right across from the piece youre
greeted by Judy Chicagos Car Hood, a feminist interpretation concerning the macho-environment
of custom car culture of Southern California, these feminist undertones quite simply depict earthy
designs and shapes resembling a womans vagina. (Fig. 2)
In other words, a cultures art is merely an indication of social values; and its material
rubbish revealing evidence of relative world-views. (Davidson 125)
The gallery guide handed to viewers at the start of exhibition states that they; as spokespeople from
The Barbican and all involved, recognise the central role played by design, discreetly grasping the
origins and meanings of the art they showcase and forcibly evoking judgments and conclusions
within the mind of the visitor.


Heaton, Walter. "Prologue." Temperament and Sex in Life and Art. Boston: R.G. Badger, 1919. Print.
"News." Tp Bennett. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2013.
Compton, Michael, and Trewin Copplestone. Pop Art. Feltham: Hamlyn, 1970. Print.
"Sella Chair By Castiglioni - Zanotta - Achille Castiglioni..." Unica Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2013.
West, Shearer. "Pop Art." N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2013.
Monroe, Marilyn. "Sex Is Part of Nature."" Goodreads. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2013.
Eames Chair. Pop Art Design 2013-2014. The Barbican. Text panel.
Davidson, Martin P. The Consumerist Manifesto: Advertising in Postmodern times. London:
Routledge, 1992. Print.

Fig. 1. Giacomo Castiglioni,
Archille and Pier.
Sella. 1958. Lacquered Steel.
Viewed at Pop Art Design/Barbican.
midmod-design. Web.
01 Dec. 2013.
< http://www.midmod-

A conventional stool allowing
movement whilst using the

Fig. 2. Chicago, Judy.
Car Bonnet. 1964. Mild Steel.
Viewed at Pop Art Design/Barbican. Web.
01 Dec. 2013.

A car bonnet spray painted by
feminist Judy Chicago to show
suggestive feminine forms within
the design.