High culture this was not. True to form the V&A’s retrospective on the excesses of what it called “the most conscientious phenomena in recent history” was delightfully “pop”.Starting with fantastic models of both the Vanna Venturi House and Phillip Johnson’s AT&T building and featuring a full-scale version of Hans Hollein’s columns built for the Venice Biennale the concentration was clearly on design rather than high art. Bathed in the glow of neon light the visitor was lead through perspex curtains echoing those of the Hacienda and accompanied by the dystopian synths of Bladerunner’s soundtrack: a film they described as “a postmodern exercise par excellence”, the exhibition had a dark, menacing tone. Somewhat surprisingly the focus on design materialized in a large collection of ceramics, especially teapots but this bizarre fascination was excused when the exhibition’s pop-culture credentials were fully exposed.
Exploring the cult of celebrity, the exhibition featured clothes from some of the leading stars of 80’s New Wave. Devo’s radiation caps stood alongside David Byrne’s oversized tour suit to give the postmodern pop-culture geek in us all the ultimate ego boost. To add to this, the collection showcased the design work of Factory Record’s Peter Saville with both posters for the Hacienda and a selection of New Order record sleeves. Tellingly, New Order formed the final piece of the exhibition with a screening of their delightfully vibrant video for “Bizarre Love Triangle”, finally cementing the movement’s pop aesthetic.
Whilst there was much left out in this retrospective, especially from a strictly artistic point of view, the V&A did a remarkable job in creating an engaging and thoroughly enjoyable exhibition. True to Postmodernism’s ethos there was something for everyone and it’s influences were pleasantly wide-ranging.