Memphis, the look of the '80s, shines in V&A exhibit 'Postmodernism'

The major new exhibit "Postmodernism: Style and Subversion, 1970-1990" at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London focuses on the contributions to MTV-age style made by the Milan-based design collective called the Memphis Group. Its name inspired by the title of the Bob Dylan song "Stuck Inside of Mobile (With the Memphis Blues Again)," -- and its look informed in spirit by this city's mix of tacky and sublime -- Memphis made a splash on the world of decorative arts in the early '80s.

"Memphis's entry into the world befitted that of a rock star, rather than a furniture brand," said Jane Pavitt, a curator of the exhibit. "Thirty years is about right to start looking back with fresh eyes at a subject which has been variously derided, dismissed and treated as highly toxic."

As MTV also turns 30 this year, the show will include elements of video and music, including performances from David Byrne, Grace Jones, Devo, Laurie Anderson, Neneh Cherry, New Order, Kraftwerk and Grandmaster Flash -- artists who employed the key postmodern strategy of sampling and editing together different style tropes, Ms. Pavitt said.

Also included in the show are works by artists like Jeff Koons and Andy Warhol, and architects like Philip Johnson. But the show goes beyond art, including pieces from luxury brands like Alessi, the fashion designers Vivienne Westwood and Stephen Sprouse, album and magazine covers, and films like Ridley Scott's science-fiction classic "Bladerunner."

The Guardian has a nice video and other coverage of the exhibit and the Postmodernist movement, including the Memphis Group.


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