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Cold War Modern: Design 1945 - 1970 - V&A

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

AN EXHIBITION entitled Cold War Modern: Design 1945 – 1970 will be on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum from September 25, 2008 to January 11, 2009.

This will be the first exhibition to examine contemporary design, architecture, film and popular culture on both sides of the Iron Curtain during the cold war era and will bring together over 300 exhibits.

These will include a Sputnik and an Apollo Mission space suit; films by Stanley Kubrick; paintings by Robert Rauschenberg and Gerhard Richter; fashion by Paco Rabanne; designs by Charles and Ray Eames and Dieter Rams; architecture by Le Corbusier, Richard Buckminster Fuller and Archigram; and vehicles such as a Messerschmidt micro-car.

The exhibition will start in the immediate post-war period showing differing visions for rebuilding devastated cities and competing ideas of modern life including new industrial products and building methods from the West, socialist realist art and architecture from the USSR, and the rival architectural visions in East and West Berlin. The exhibition will then examine how the competition to be modern entered the domestic sphere.

During this period, images of destruction haunted the collective imagination. The nuclear threat, and the response to it, will be seen through graphics, art, film and imaginary schemes such as Buckminster Fuller’s 1962 geodesic Dome over Manhattan.

A section on the space race and hi-tech triumphs will highlight the first space mission by Yuri Gagarin, designs of interiors for NASA space craft, experimental spacesuits and many examples of furniture, architecture, art and fashion inspired by the space race.

Forms of protest and rebellion, including the tumultuous events of 1968 in Paris and Prague, are considered through posters, film, photography and art.

The final section of the exhibition will look at how Cold War technologies were used by architects and designers to create imagined utopias, a world of inflatable, mobile and expendable habitats. The exhibition will end with the first photographs of Earth taken from space, which inspired artists and designers in their utopian imaginings and acted as a catalyst to a new environmental awareness of the fragility of the planet.

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