Pop Art Design, curated by the Vitra Design Museum and currently at the Barbican, opens with Richard Hamilton’s 1956 ‘Just what makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?’. Made as a poster for the Whitechapel show This is Tomorrow, it’s a witty collage of consumer fantasies scissored out of magazines, reminding us that interest in popular culture among British artists operated as a humorous, semi-anthropological collegiate research project. In part, British Pop was a riposte to the lushness of American consumerism from a small island that had won the war but had lost the peace.
Pop Art in the United States got under way later and many American Pop artists had had first-hand experience of commercial art. Andy Warhol had been an illustrator, James Rosenquist a billboard artist, Edward Ruscha a typographer, while the sculptor Richard Artschwager had worked as a trade furniture-maker.