Wonderland takes an exclusive sneak peek behind the scenes of the Fashion and Textile Museum‘s upcoming Pop! exhibition. From 1950s rock-n-roll Americana to the kitsch glamour of the seventies, this thematic exhibition fuses fashion, art and culture for an insight into the development of the styles of the times. We talk Pop Art and counterculture with the museum’s curator, Dennis Nothdruft.
What inspired you to put the exhibition together?
It was initially through work we’d done previously with Geoff Rayner and Richard Chamberlain, who own the Target Gallery. We’ve been involved with other projects with them, and after seeing their private collection, we began discussions almost two years ago. So that was the first genesis of the idea, and then it kind of just spilled from there.
Why did you decide to include a mixture of fashion and art?
I think Pop Art gets a lot of attention, but it’s also about the peripheral things that it engendered and that it embraces. So the whole exhibition starts with teenage rock-n-roll in the fifties, and, kind of, throwaway culture. But then there is this interconnected movement of design, fashion and graphics around that.
So do you think the two are inextricably linked?
Yes. Pop Art’s a consumer product – Andy Warhol said that he was creating for the consumer.
Is there any part of the exhibition that particularly strikes a chord with you?
I remember seeing an Andy Warhol exhibition in the 80s: there must have been about 18 rooms that I saw, all of Andy Warhol. It had a real impact, just on the way you think, and it was really influential, so that began my connection. And then there’s the psychedelia. There’s paper furniture and there’s Mary Quant. A particular sector I’m also really interested in is the group around van der Rohe and Andrew Logan in the early seventies. It’s almost a do-it-yourself, Baroque bad taste. It’s a kind of narrative arc all the way through to punk.
So you’d say there’s a definite journey through the exhibition?
Oh definitely. And I think the thing that’s clever is its scope. So when you put it all together, you start with rock-n-roll and then you get onto people like Barbara Jones, the illustrator, who was hugely influential in the fifties, and then you have the Modernists. Then there’s the swinging sixties; the bikers and mods. It just flows from one group to the next. But all [the decades] are in their own way quite subversive. Always undermining something.
And is there a stand out period or piece in particular that you’re excited about?
There’s so many – it’s taking over every space in the museum! It’s probably the most ambitious exhibition we’ve done. There are a couple of dresses from Mary Quant though: pre-1960s that nobody really sees because everybody focusses on the black and white, the daisies, the miniskirts. And then Mr. Freedom is also amazing for me: that kind of kitsch Americana, filtered through punk and counterculture. It’s really interesting.
What do you want people to think when they come and see this?
I want to inspire a young designer to have a go. To do something. To create. I hope people get lost in it.
Pop! exhibition will run from 6 July – 27 October 2012 at the Fashion and Textile Museum.
Words: Samantha Southern