Postmodernism at the V&A

Grace Jones in a maternity dress designed by Jean-Paul Goude and Antonio Lopez, 1979 © Jean-Paul Goude

PYMCA recently went along to the V&A museum to check out the new exhibition on Postmodernism.

“Of all movements in art and design history, postmodernism is perhaps the most controversial. This era defies definition – it was an unstable mix of the theatrical and theoretical. It was visually thrilling, a multifaceted style that ranged from the colourful to the ruinous, the ludicrous to the luxurious.”

The show covers architecture, product design, fashion, music and graphics from 1970 -1990.

Our favourite section was definitely the music with classic clips of Kraftwerk, Grandmaster Flash, Devo, Grace Jones & Talking Heads.

The show is essentially about Bricolage – the construction or creation of work from a diverse range of sources.

Hip Hop is a classic example using sampling and turntablism to create something new out of widely different source material.

Grandmaster Flash’s old Technics turntables were on display as well as this clip from Wild Style

Ron Arad, Concrete Stereo, 1983. Stereo system set in concrete. Museum no. V&A: W.7-2011


As the show moves into the 1980s we are confronted by the ‘New Wave’

“As the 1980s approached, postmodernism went into high gear. What had begun as a radical fringe movement became the dominant look of the ‘designer decade’. Vivid colour, theatricality and exaggeration: everything was a style statement. Whether surfaces were glossy, faked or deliberately distressed, they reflected the desire to combine subversive statements with commercial appeal. The most important delivery systems for this new phase in postmodernism were magazines and music – the energy of post-punk subculture was broadcast far and wide through music videos and cutting-edge graphics. This was the moment of the New Wave: a few thrilling years when image was everything.”

i-D, no 28. The Art Issue, August 1985. Styled by William Faulkner, design by Terry Jones, photograph by Nick Knight, featuring Lizzy Tear. V&A: NAL.PP.22.J







There are some classic graphic design from the 80s in the form of magazines and album art. i-D, The Face and the graphics of Peter Saville in his work for Factory Records are highlights.

Postmodernism – Style & Subversion 1970 – 1990 runs until 15th January 2012

More more info go to the V&A website


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