Is Baroque recession-proof?

On the eve of a new V&A exhibition, Annie Deakin finds herself stuck between Baroque and a hard place

Trend forecasters and buyers know to keep a beady eye on the Victoria & Albert Museum calendar. More often than not, their globally recognised exhibitions sow the seeds of future trends.

Their next exhibition Baroque 1620-1800: Style in the Age of Magnificence celebrates the decadent and imposing art movement on a major scale. Curators, musicians, designers and cultural organizations are bending over backwards to dedicate 2009 to Baroque. This year marks the 350th anniversary of Purcell’s birth and the 250th of Handel’s death. While the BBC is broadcasting a TV series on the opulent art, the Barbican and the Royal Opera House are hosting concerts to celebrate the grandeur and majesty of the Baroque era. There is even an "All things Baroque meet-up group" on the web.

Search for the perfect furniture with The Independent house and home database, powered by mydeco.

As the bite of the recession gnaws ever deeper, isn’t it poor timing to come over all lavish? Not at all, insists Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen, the Welsh interior designer who adores the flamboyant nature of Baroque décor. Instead we should treat the swirls and curls of Baroque as a welcome antidote to credit crunch blues. "Modernism is very chilly. There’s no distraction or romance, which is important in times of economic difficulty. I can see us rushing headlong into the accommodating bosom of baroque for a bit of nourishment and fun."

In recent years, Baroque was written off as kitsch and frivolous but the modern-day look is more subtle than its historical counterpart. Instead of going the whole hog with excessive gilt leaf from floor to ceiling and gilded cherubs, designers are dabbling in the trend. The odd gold cushion, Baroque-inspired photo frame or curve on a table leg is a chic hint towards Marie Antoinette glamour.

The high street brings the Baroque era into the 21st century with funky products like Graham & Green’s avant-garde Baroque-style black metal bookshelves. Over at Heal’s, the deep red pillar candles cut with ornate swirls and acrylic fuschia photo frames sit alongside bigger ticket items like John Reeve’s acclaimed "Louis" range. Somewhat ironically, Reeves’ contemporary Baroque furniture is now regarded as a modern day classic and in this sense, current furniture is inspiring future trends.

Scottish textile designer, illustrator and screen printer Johanna Basford, who sells through’s design boutique, delves into the Baroque movement.

Last autumn, I oohed and ahhed at her first solo stand, a monochrome extravaganza, at 100% Design. Basford’s signature style of hand drawn prints and motifs with inky blacks is theatrical and reminiscent of the extravagant era. Her punchy black and white mugs and dinner plates are splattered with Baroque-style swirls of dense foliage, butterflies and love birds.

Justifiably, Basford recoils at the prospect of being a passing fad. "'Trend' is a word I never associate with my work or design practice," she told me last week. "I don't allow trend forecasters to dictate the style and direction of my work, instead I concentrate on creating an aesthetic which reflects my love of pattern and intricate detail, which I guess at present fits under the Baroque banner."

Extravagant embellishments, scrolling curlicues and a fondness for gold have been out of fashion for so long, it’s hard to believe that Baroque is back on trend. But the elaborate nature of Baroque appeals in an all-too-grey and sensible recession. The recent proliferation of chandeliers is, in part, a nod to the baroque movement. You’ve got to admire Studio Job who was ahead of the game when they re-interpreted the old classic with a papier mache version for Moooi. It has all the grandiose qualities of an Italian crystal chandelier yet retains a kindergarten quality courtesy of the paper and cardboard construction. Like Basford’s heavily ornate chinaware, the pendant lamp brings Baroque into the 21st century. It is a modern day tongue in cheek gesture to a classic icon.

"There is a need to dream now and go beyond the moment," said fashion designer Stefano Gabbano when he revealed his surreal Baroque-style catwalk show for the D&G Autumn 2009 collection.

The Paris trade show Maison et Objet was certainly dreaming. At Comptoir du Sud, traditional French furniture echoing the curvilinear Louis XV period was mixed with outsized neo-Baroque accessories like outsized lamps and mirrors.

Next month, when the V&A will exhibit silver bedroom furniture, designers and buyers will treat Baroque as a potent tonic to conquer the gloom of the recession. As Basford said, the overtly ornate flourishes and intricate detailing - of the Baroque movement - make pattern charming and delightful. It’s just what the trend forecasters ordered.

Annie Deakin is Editor of

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering