Tanya Harrod

The V&A’s restructuring plans are baffling, disturbing and wrong

These are challenging times for all cultural institutions, not least for the Victoria & Albert Museum and for its director Tristram Hunt. The museum was riding high at the start of 2020 with strikingly successful exhibitions, record attendances and the ongoing realisation of the ambitious plans put in place by Martin Roth, Hunt’s predecessor –

Notes on a scandal | 1 March 2018

Leonard Rosoman is not a well-known artist these days. Many of us will, however, be subliminally familiar with his mural ‘Upstairs and Downstairs’ in the Grand Café at the Royal Academy, painted in 1986 when the artist was in his early seventies. Two worlds are portrayed with a degree of satire — dressy guests arriving

Grain of truth

We routinely feel emotional about materials — often subliminally. Which is why new substances and techniques for manufacturing have provoked vivid writing, particularly during the design-reform debates of the 19th century. Think of John Ruskin on the evils of cut as opposed to blown glass or his views on wrought iron as opposed to cast

Where’s the fun, Barbican? 

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

Shades of Gray | 21 March 2013

The Anglo-Irish designer Eileen Gray keeps on being rediscovered but she remains a puzzle. The nub of the Gray ‘problem’, which her last large retrospective at the Design Museum in 2005 failed to answer, is this: how did the author of some of the most sensual, disturbing interior design and furniture of the 1910s and

Weaving magic

Tapestry, papal and princely, never quite went away. Today it satisfies a need for conspicuous displays of skill of the kind celebrated in the V&A’s recent show Power of Making. The surprise hit of last year’s Venice Biennale was Penelope’s Labour: Weaving Words and Images, an exhibition of weavings and tapestries old and new, while

Inside No. 10

We are standing in the wood-panelled anteroom to the state rooms at No. 10 Downing Street — myself, Mo Hussein, David Heaton and Janice Blackburn, the former curator of the Saatchi Gallery who has been putting examples of contemporary decorative art and design into No. 10 since last July. We gaze up at Michael Eden’s

Surprise tactics

Suddenly the word craft has resonance. While not exactly on everyone’s lips, it has certainly won unexpected allies. Take the fashionable sociologist Richard Sennett. In his book Respect: the Formation of Character in an Age of Inequality (2003) Sennett seizes on what he calls ‘craftwork’ as a defence against a world dominated by audits and

For the people

What is folk art? It is usually defined as being made by ‘the people’ as opposed to by academically trained artists. Its 19th-century admirers liked to emphasise that it was made for love, not money, and was therefore beyond vulgar commodification. It was heartening to think that in Sweden a young lover would carve a

Subversive needles

When Henry Moore wanted to make clear that he thought Eric Gill’s sculpture dull and unadventurous, he compared it to knitting. Times have changed, and knitting has become worryingly fashionable, hence the Crafts Council’s delightful exhibition Knit 2 Together. There is, however, a strange feeling of déjà vu about all this. Remember the barefoot California