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iStyle: Pop Art inspiration from the Barbican

The brash, colourful movement signalled a radical departure

Pop Art Design opens at the London’s Barbican next Tuesday (22 October), in an exhibition that aims to showcase for the first time the strong links that existed between the Pop Art movement and design.

Bringing together around 200 pieces by over 70 artists and designers, the exhibition (barbican.org.uk) features the work of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Peter Blake alongside objects by designers such as Achille Castiglioni, Charles and Ray Eames and Ettore Sottsass, among others.

Brash, colourful and ironic, the Pop Art movement signalled a radical change of direction in the post-war era. By including imagery from popular culture, such as comic books and advertising, it presented a challenge to traditions of fine art. And from the late 1950s to the early 1970s it shaped our sense of cultural identity, with a focus on celebrity, mass production, advertising and television that still resonates culturally today.

Click here to launch a gallery of Pop Art-inspired products

What’s less well known is the important role that design played in the movement. By co-opting symbols of consumer culture and creating objects and furniture in bold colours and with a playful touch, everyday life came under the influence of pop culture for the first time.

Alongside its cultural value, the show is great for inspiration on how to lighten up at home too. The bright and lively styles of pop design are easy to incorporate in contemporary spaces. Channel the vivid yellow circular pads of the George Nelson-designed Marshmallow sofa and choose items in bold colours and designs that don’t take themselves too seriously. It’s all about reconstructing everyday images, emphasising the kitsch and taking an ironic look at our cultural icons.  

Pop Art Design runs from 22 October to 9 February and includes iconic art alongside furniture and graphic design by big name designers of the period