Britain was rarely a leading light, from a purely creative sense, in European history. Constable was no Leonardo Da Vinci. St Christopher Wren built a mighty impressive cathedral at St Pauls, but you can clearly see the inspiration he drew from across the other side of the channel. Going back further still, our magnificent Norman, and Norman inspired, cathedrals came from ideas and traditions that were created on the continent. Mozart did live in London for a while, but it’s a stretch to claim any part of him as ours.
Functionality was our speciality. Design for purposes of use was our strong point. Weaponry, tools and tooling. Especially from 1800 onwards. But post war, everything changed. Musically, artistically, architecturally. It’s hard to put a finger on exactly why, but the British suddenly developed a massive, all conquering creative industry that has, at times, dominated the world.
There’s an exhibition on at the Victoria and Albert museum at the moment, British Design 1948-2012. It’s a slightly pricy £12 – the most I think that I’ve ever paid to see an exhibition. But it was, perhaps the most enjoyable exhibition I’ve ever been to. That’s probably because I can relate to or grew up with so much of the contents of the displays.
I’ve also found a use for Pinterest. Photography isn’t allowed at the exhibition, so for a taster of what’s inside, I put together a gallery of images that I’ve filched across the web. I was quite fun putting it together. It’s nice to know I can add stuff. Have I missed any wonders of British design that I should have added? Let me know. Till then, enjoy the show – courtesy of your friendly local British designer. There’s Concorde, a Jaguar E-Type, some David Bowie pants, and a couple of pieces of design that many of you will have near to hand as we speak – your iPhone.
As I mentioned, photography wasn’t allowed. But I hate to post a post without a photo of mine at the bottom. Here’s a snap I took of a work by Damien Hirst that is currently sitting outside the Tate Modern, where he has his own exhibition going on. He also has works in the British Design exhibition, of course.