Art: Modern Britain 1929-1939 Design Museum, London SE1

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The Independent Culture
"Modern Britain 1929-1939" is a fitting exhibition for the last year of the 20th century. It takes us back to the decade immediately before the outbreak of the Second World War, to a time when Britain emerged from the frivolous and artistically inauspicious 1920s to play a leading role in the development of "the Modern Movement".

There have been plenty of surveys in the past of the Hampstead years of Nicholson, Hepworth and Henry Moore, but as the century draws to a close, it is especially appropriate to see these familiar things alongside the other, everyday arts of graphics, textiles, furniture, ceramics and above all, architecture. It was architecture in particular which most clearly expressed the new ideal - as seen here in the work of Englishmen like Wells Coates and others such as Chermayeff, Mendelsohn, Goldfinger and Lubetkin, who made England their home.

It feels like the sort of show that the Design Museum was invented for, but has rarely managed to pull off: a broad and fascinating view of the nation's cultural and aesthetic history. The mood is bright and optimistic, at times even Utopian, though with a poignancy provided by the knowledge that war lay just around the corner.

Design Museum, 28 Shad Thames, London SE1 (0171-378 6055) 20 Jan to 6 Jun

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