Richard Hamilton’s trailblazing multimedia installation “Fun House” was realized for the exhibition “this is tomorrow” in London in 1956. Exactly sixty years later, the retrospective survey “This Was Tomorrow” at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg brings together not only painting, sculpture, collage, architecture, drawing and installation, but also film, music, television and photography in one multimedia, spatial mise-en-scène, to create a comprehensive panorama of Pop Art in Great Britain.
What exactly is new and different about this exhibition in terms of art and cultural history? On one hand, there’s the intense look at female protagonists of Pop Art, the strong focus on the future-oriented architects Alison and Peter Smithson, Cedric Price, and Archigram (each of whom was closely linked to the art scene), as well as the determined inclusion of music, magazines, television, and film as media of equal value that also crossed borders. Second, there’s the expanded timeframe: the exhibition ranges from Eduardo Paolozzi’s early Parisian collages from 1947 to the climax and culmination of “Swinging London” around Mick Jagger and Robert Fraser, the star gallerist and pop-networker par excellence, in 1968.
Atmospherically dense interior spaces reflect the intense encounters among artists, the dreariness of the English capital in the post-war years, and the first future-oriented art and architecture projects. Nigel Henderson’s powerful, black-and-white photos of a reconstruction full of privation are juxtaposed here with the Smithsons’ models and drawings for their “House of the Future”. Comics, science fiction, scientific book illustrations, advertisements, Hollywood films, and magazine pages are shown as sources of inspiration that go beyond classic concepts of high and low art. Following the spatial explosion of Richard Hamilton’s “Fun House”, which has been reconstructed in all its sensual details, including a jukebox and the scent of strawberries, visitors enter a veritable “city of the sixties” in the grand hall of the Kunstmuseum.
In the 16-meter-high hall, visitors encounter streets, squares, and artist’s houses of various sizes and heights for the highly individual, and often closely related—in terms of both friendship and thematic content—stakeholders of the art and cultural scene of the “Swinging Sixties”: key protagonists such as Peter Blake, David Hockney, R. B. Kitaj and Allen Jones, along with generally lesser-known but essential figures such as Derek Boshier, Peter Phillips, Richard Smith, Gerald Laing, Patrick Caulfield, Antony Donaldson, Colin Self and Joe Tilson, as well as the often neglected, decidedly feminine stances of Pauline Boty and Jann Haworth can be experienced there in larger groups of works.
In every case, it’s about exemplifying and bringing to life the numerous cross-connections, largely forgotten today, between the then increasingly fluid forms of culture and their creative stakeholders. The exhibition’s broad scope—ranging from the initial spark of Paolozzi’s early magazine collages and the works by Colin Self and Gerald Laing, which oscillate between nuclear fear and a euphoric belief in progress, to Hamilton’s pictorial relief of Mick Jagger and Robert Fraser in handcuffs after being arrested for drug abuse—enables visitors to experience the artistic and cultural-historical significance of British Pop Art with all their senses, while presenting this period as an essential prehistory of our own present day.
The exhibition is supported by Volkswagen Financial Services AG.
Artists, architects, film directors, music bands and photographers
Michelangelo Antonioni, Archigram, David Bailey, The Beatles, Peter Blake, Derek Boshier, Pauline Boty, Patrick Caulfield, Antony Donaldson, Richard Hamilton, Jann Haworth, Nigel Henderson, David Hockney, Allen Jones, R. B. Kitaj, Gerald Laing, Roger Mayne, Lewis Morley, Eduardo Paolozzi, Peter Phillips, Cedric Price, Ken Russell, James Scott, Colin Self, Michael Seymour, Richard Smith, Alison and Peter Smithson, Lord Snowdon, The Rolling Stones, Joe Tilson, The Who.
Wienand Verlag publishes the eponymous, extensive catalogue of the exhibition, in both German and English. Edited by Ralf Beil and Uta Ruhkamp, the catalogue features essays by Ralf Beil, David E. Brauer, Anne Massey, Rainer Metzger, Uta Ruhkamp, and John-Paul Stonard; texts by Daniel F. Herrmann, Kay Heymer, Francis Outred, Sue Tate, Victoria Walsh, and others; as well as a chronology of the years 1947 to 1968. 432 pages, approx. 400 illustrations, 24 x 31 cm, hard cover, 38 € in the Museum Shop.
Curators of the exhibition
Dr. Ralf Beil, Director, Dr. Uta Ruhkamp, Curator , Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg